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The Pacers opened the season with an impressive opening salvo that saw senior quarterback Ryan Oliver throw five TDs.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - .Lakeridge junior Joey Olsen grabs the first of his two touchdown receptions in the Pacers' 47-0 victory over McNary at Lakeridge High School, Friday, Sept. 2.

After finishing fourth in the Three Rivers League last year, Lakeridge High School just fired a warning shot to open the 2022 football season.

Lakeridge began the new year in impressive fashion, shutting out McNary High School 47-0 on Friday, Sept. 2, at home in Lake Oswego. From the opening kickoff to the final horn, the Pacers' offense clicked on all cylinders and their defense prevented the Celtics from clicking on even one.

"It's just a blast," said senior quarterback Ryan Oliver, who threw for 356 yards and five touchdowns in the win. "Playing in front of the home crowd and scoring the way we did — it was just a lot of fun."

For a Lakeridge team hunting its school's first state championship in football since 1987, it was exactly the type of opening salvo they wanted to start the year. With a potent mix of returning stars and new faces — both young and old — a long-awaited trip back to the state title game could be in the cards.

The Lakeridge offense was humming thanks to a punishing performance from the offensive line, which gave Oliver plenty of time and space to find fellow senior Baylor Corbin and junior Joey Olsen in the passing game. They also opened up running lanes for senior Chili Stephens Jr. and freshman Ansu Sanoe in the running game.

"Got to give credit to our O-line," said Olsen, who caught four passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. "I'll give credit to my whole offense. We kept working throughout the whole summer, the first week of practice for game week, and we just kept working to not let our foot off the gas."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Lakeridge senior Baylor Corbin leaps over a McNary defender in the first quarter of the Pacers' 47-0 victory over the Celtics at Lakeridge High School, Friday, Sept. 2.

Olsen's touchdowns were just two of the five total TDs that Oliver tossed in the big win, and Oliver completed 20 of 23 passes. The other three touchdown passes each went to Corbin, who lit up the Celtics' secondary to the tune of 12 catches and 225 yards — including two long scores from 41 and 78 yards out.

"I've been playing with Ryan since my freshman year, so that's my guy," said Olsen of his quarterback. "I personally think he can put the ball anywhere. And all our other receivers, we have a connection. You could see it out there: When we're wide open, he's putting it in the right place."

On the other end of that connection is Oliver, and from where he's standing, the reception is clear.

"It's really nice," Oliver said, "because going into Year 3 of starting and building that connection over the years with them, you can tell on the field that we're a well-oiled machine out there."

The passing game worked so well because McNary also had to key in on the Pacers' run game. That attack was led by two new faces in Stephens, who transferred to Lakeridge from Grant High School after being named to the All-PIL Second Team in 2021, and the freshman Sanoe. It was Sanoe who opened up the scoring with a 1-yard run in the first quarter; in the fourth, Stephens capped off the points parade with a 2-yard touchdown of his own.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Lakeridge senior Chili Stephens Jr., who transferred in from Grant High School over the summer, rushes upfield in the Pacers' 47-0 win over McNary at Lakeridge High School, Friday, Sept. 2.

"Chili's a beast," said Oliver of the new running back behind him. "He's just such a threat in the backfield, so that's really exciting to have. He moves so fluidly and so well, but he's a bowling ball when we need him to be."

Stephens eventually rushed for a team-leading 69 yards on just nine attempts, making for an impressive early debut as one of two star transfers on the team. The other is senior Tristan Davis, a hulking 6-foot-7 pass rusher who came over from Wilsonville to play closer to home. In his first game as a Pacer, Davis helped key the Lakeridge defense to a shutout.

"We worked hard in practice," said Davis after the game. "The coaches push us very, very hard. We watched film before the game, and yesterday, and we watched film at lunch. So, we were well-prepared and we played hard."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Lakeridge senior Tristan Davis prepares to break up a screen pass during the first quarter of the Pacers' 47-0 victory over McNary at Lakeridge High School, Friday, Sept. 2.

Ethan Biondine, a junior linebacker, echoed his new teammate and praised the team's preparation as the catalyst for blanking McNary. He was also happy to share praise with his teammates for what turned out to be an all-hands-on-deck performance in Week 1.

"We have Tristan Davis. We have Riley Yaker, a kid coming back and playing D-line. We have me and my boy Tashi (Crofut)," listed Biondine, nearly running out of breath. "I just love playing with these guys, and I think we do great together."

Biondine may be onto something. In addition to allowing zero points, the Lakeridge defense combined to allow the McNary offense to gain just 62 yards all game, with only five first downs.

After putting on a spectacle in the season opener, Lakeridge loaned credence to the No. 5 preseason ranking it received in the OSAAToday preseason 6A coaches' poll. Now that they have announced themselves as a worthy contender, the Pacers are focusing on incremental, short-term goals — "1% better all the time," as Davis put it, or "one week at a time," in Oliver's words. However, Biondine was not shy about laying out the team's long-term dream for this year: winning a state championship.

Lakeridge has been waiting 35 years for a return to the biggest stage in Oregon high school football. After a staggering Week 1 performance, the Pacers appear to be on the right path.

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