The Pacers rally late, but lose in the Columbia Cup semifinals.
The second season was just that for the Lakeridge football team.
The Pacers, after struggling mightily during the 2022 regular season, closed their ‘22 campaign with a flourish.
First, they won the annual Battle of the Lake in their regular-season finale. After that, Lakeridge won two consecutive games in the inaugural Columbia Cup playoffs before finally bowing out in a 35-14 loss to Westview in the semifinals at Hillsboro Stadium on Friday, Nov. 18.
“They made plays when the opportunity presented itself,” said Lakeridge coach Spencer Phillips. “And I felt like we had a tough time getting started, and stopping them early in the game.”
The loss to No. 18 Westview — the second-highest ranked team in the Columbia Cup — snapped No. 22 Lakeridge’s season-high three-game winning streak and ended its year with a 5-7 overall record after tying for fifth place in the Three Rivers League. The Wildcats, meanwhile, won for the sixth straight time, improved to 7-5 overall after placing third in the Metro League and advanced to the Columbia Cup championship game against No. 28 North Salem at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 25, at Hillsboro Stadium.
While disappointed that his team didn’t reach the title game, Phillips was glad that the Pacers had extended their season as long as they did and expressed pride in his senior class. That group included the following all-TRL players: wide receiver/cornerback Baylor Corbin, quarterback/punter Ryan Oliver, running back/kick returner Chili Stephens, offensive/defensive lineman Camden Ferguson, tight end Jace Swygard, center Will Stelk, placekicker Keaton Emmett, defensive lineman Tristan Davis, defensive lineman Riley Yaker and safety Luke Brooks.
“This year’s class showed a lot of resilience,” Phillips said. “They were a small senior class, but never gave up this year. It was great for our younger classes to see that.”
In Friday’s game, the Wildcats used their powerful line and senior running back Jordan Fisher to great effect, with Fisher — he’s amassed more than 2,200 yards in 2022 — racking up 201 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.
“Westview was very big and physical up front,” Phillips said. “(It’s a) great combo between the offensive line and … Jordan Fisher.”
Fisher got his team on the scoreboard first with a 14-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Wildcats led 8-0 after one period, then tacked on two unanswered scores in the second to take a 22-0 lead at the half.
The first of those came when senior wide receiver Jaydon McBreen hauled in a 29-yard TD pass from sophomore quarterback Nolan Keeney, while the second score came on a one-yard Keeney run.
Fisher scored again in the third quarter — this time on a nine-yard run — that extended his team’s lead to 28-0 and Westview took that lead into the fourth quarter.
The Pacers, to their credit, kept playing down the stretch and eventually outscored the Wildcats 14-13 in the second half. Corbin got his team on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass from Oliver, and then, after a five-yard Fisher TD run, junior quarterback Gabe Motschenbacher connected with freshman Drew Weiler on a 15-yard score.
For the game, Oliver completed 18 of 26 throws for 144 yards and one TD, with junior tight end Tashi Crofut catching five passes for 97 yards and Corbin five for 53. On the ground, freshman Ansu Sanoe rushed eight times for 90 yards. Defensively, Phillips said that junior linebacker Ethan Biondine led the way for the Pacers.
For Westview, Keeney hit 6 of 9 throws for 125 yards, with McBreen making three catches for 61 yards and senior Kaden Huppin one for 60.