The final game of the year for the Lakeridge football team was, in many ways, a microcosm of its entire season.

The Pacers approached the contest against one of the state's top teams with a certain amount of confidence and swagger that hasn't existed within the program in a number of years. And yet, when the tide of the game shifted against Lakeridge, there was a precipitous fall.

The Pacers began missing assignments and making mistakes and, as the frustration built, it manifested itself in the form of personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

When the dust settled, the team had been flagged for nearly 250 yards of penalties, had a player ejected and referees elected not to have the teams shake hands at the game's conclusion.

To be fair, Jesuit wasn't blameless in the affair, racking up second-half penalties of its own, but Lakeridge did little to show the officials that the reputation it established this fall was unfair.

When the Pacers were at their best this year and able to keep the referees' flags in their pockets, they were excellent and more than worthy of their top-10 ranking in the state.

There was a marked change in the Pacers this year for better and for worse. The team had a distinct identity and was eager to shed its label as an offense-only program. But the Pacers struggled at knowing where the line was between toughness and swagger and lack of sportsmanship.

So much has now come out about the Lakeridge football program this year and the internal struggle between the legend, coach Tom Smythe, and his hand-picked offensive coordinator, Chad Carlson, and many community members have chosen distinct sides.

The Pacers' football program is at a crossroads certainly and this offseason may go down as one of its most important — not only for the returning players, who will try and build on the success the team had on the field, but also for the administration as it searches for a new coach who will need to mend fences and define the culture among the team and the community.

Look for expanded coverage of the Lakeridge coaching situation in the upcoming Thursday edition of the Review.

Contract Publishing

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