The Pacers bring back a ton of proven talent and a couple solid transfers.
Make no mistake about it — the Lakeridge football team is going to be good in 2022.
But Lakeridge coach Spencer Phillips — knowing the incredible overall quality of the Three Rivers League — isn’t looking back. Instead, he’s focused on helping his team improve every day in the belief that’s what will reap the biggest rewards in 2022.
“Every week is a dogfight. Every week, you are potentially going up against one of the best teams in the state,” Phillips said. “And I think that in itself is rewarding, because it challenges you each week in different ways. … It’s like you’re getting playoff games before you get there … so I think whatever team prepares the best has the best chance.”
The Pacers’ offense will feature returning all-TRL players at seven spots, led by first-team punter and honorable mention quarterback Ryan Oliver (a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior), senior offensive lineman Cam Ferguson (6-2, 305 and a first-team pick), junior wide receiver/tight end Joey Olsen (6-5, 220 and a first-team selection), senior wide receiver Lucas Burkeen (5-9, 170 and an honorable mention pick), senior tight end Jace Swygard (6-3, 195 and an honorable mention selection) and junior placekicker Keaton Emmett (6-0, 150 and an honorable mention pick).
Along the line, Lakeridge will call on senior A.J. Klein (6-4, 250) and senior Tristan Davis (6-7, 250 and a transfer from Wilsonville) at left tackle, Ferguson and junior Chris Azari (6-1, 245) at guard — both Ferguson and Azari are three-year starters — along with junior Tim Price (6-2, 235) and senior Joey Moffenbeier (6-1, 220), senior Will Stelk (6-2, 230 and another three-year starter) at center, and junior Joey Massari (6-3, 230) and Price at right tackle.
“We’re very lucky that the core part of our offensive line is coming back for a third year, so there’s a lot of confidence there and they’re very smart young kids,” Phillips said. “We just have a really nice mix of guys there that you feel comfortable rotating, which is rare.”
At quarterback, the Pacers will look to Oliver (another three-year starter), along with senior Cam Masters-Doble (6-3, 205 and a transfer who started all last year for Tigard), junior Gabe Motschenbacher (6-1, 185) and sophomore Charlie Petersen (5-11, 170).
“One of the most overlooked aspects of playing quarterback is the ability to (be a) field general, an extension of the head coach,” Phillips said. “I talk to Ryan like I talked to some of the guys I talked to in college, guys I’ve talked to as professionals. For a 17-year-old kid, he is so smart, so bright … it’s almost like we’re seeing things exactly the same way.”
In the backfield — where Lakeridge must replace Jake Reichle and his 1,975 yards — the Pacers will call on senior Chili Stephens Jr. (6-0, 215 and a transfer from Grant), freshman Ansu Sanoe (6-2, 220) and junior Ethan Biondine (6-0, 210).
“(Stephens is) very good. It’s always such a blessing when you have kids coming to your program,” Phillips said. “It just immediately impacts the culture of the team and … he is nothing but a blessing to the team.”
The Pacers are stacked at receiver, too, with Olsen — who has a handful of Pac-12 offers — leading the way at tight end and wide receiver, while senior Baylor Corbin (6-2, 180), Burkeen, Swygard and freshman Marcus Post (5-11, 165) will all play wide receiver, while junior Tashi Crofut (6-0, 210) will go at tight end.
Emmett is back to handle the placekicking duties, while Oliver and Masters-Doble will punt.
“We’ve got, I think, on the offensive side of the ball … nine returning starters,” Phillips said. “We’re very lucky to have so many returners.”
As a whole, that group promises to give Phillips a wide array of choices he can use to attack opposing defenses.
“This group is going to be multifaceted,” he said. “This group is going to be able to win games in different ways, which is exciting. As a play caller, we have so many good players with experience that there’s a lot of different personnel packages we can get into. I really feel like I’m going to able to get into different sets and kind of think outside the box a little more.
“We’ve got different types of runners. We’ve got really fast guys and we’ve got some big, strong, tough guys. It’s gonna be fun to watch. And the most important thing is we don’t have to rely on a single player or a certain type of offensive structure to win a game. We’re going to be able to get there in different ways which is pretty uncommon.”
There’s game-proven talent back on defense, too, led by Biondine (he was a second-team lineman), Crofut (he was a second-team outside linebacker) and Corbin (he was an honorable mention pick at cornerback).
Up front, Lakeridge will call on Davis (he was a first-team all-Northwest Oregon Conference pick a year ago) and senior Riley Yaker (6-3, 210) at defensive end, with Ferguson, Klein, Price and sophomore Taiariitua Tovey (6-1, 220) in the middle.
At linebacker, the Pacers will be led on the inside by Crofut, Biondine and freshman Yahkyll Noil (6-0, 200). The team’s safeties will include senior Luke Brooks (6-3, 190), King, Swygard, Burkeen, Floyd and sophomore Brigham Davis (5-10, 155).
“Biondine is two-year returning all-league player who has played since he was a freshman,” Phillips said. “He was our strongest, most physical kid as a freshman and sophomore, but he had to play on the ‘D’ line, but his true position is middle linebacker so I cannot wait to watch him play. … He is very, very, very good.”
At cornerback, it will be Corbin, junior Jake Moleiro (5-10, 175), junior Jaden Swan (5-10, 170) and junior Ben Jones (5-8, 160).
“I’d say that our front six or seven guys are, I would arguably say, they’re one of the better sevens in the state,” Phillips said. “We’re pretty good up front, a lot of returners there, a lot of guys with a lot of varsity playing experience. (There’s) a little bit of inexperience on the back end, but I think that … they’re better on the back end.”
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