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The Pacer graduate forces a fumble and catches a pair of passes in the victory

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - JR McLaughlin makes a move after a reception during the Les Schwab Bowl at Hillsboro Stadium.The North squad emerged victorious in the annual Les Schwab Bowl last week at Hillsboro, as an advantageous defense helped the team pull away in the second half for a 31-21 victory.

Lakeridge had a lone representative on the North team, comprised of recently-graduated All-Star football players.

J.R. McLaughlin played receiver and made an impact on special teams this year. McLaughlin was one of the top receivers in the state over the past two years and was also a standout on the Pacer lacrosse team which won the state title in 2013.

McLaughlin enjoyed putting on the pads one final time and helping the North team win for the third time in four years.

But the unique experience of the Les Schwab Bowl is how it brings former rivals together to bond for a week leading up to the game. The North squad was particularly tight-knit this year and it showed both on and off the field.

“We really came together from day one. It's a great group of guys,” McLaughlin said.

After both teams sputtered on their opening drives, the North got on the board first. Quarterback rushes by Central Catholic's Aidan Wilder, and a personal foul penalty set up Wilder's two-yard sneak to make it 7-0.

McLaughlin would then force a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, something that would be an issue for the team all game.

The North had a chance to blow the game open but failed to take advantage of the South's struggled on offense. An interception thrown by Wilder set up the South's first touchdown and, later in the second quarter, a fumble was returned 58 yards to give the South a 14-10 lead.

After a late drive fell short, the North recorded a sack and recovered a fumble with less than a minute to play in the half.

A big completion set up another touchdown run from Wilder to make it 17-14 at the break.

The North started to exert its dominance to open the third quarter. North's offensive line began to take control and the running game opened up.

McLaughlin caught a 19-yard pass which set up a 13-yard touchdown run from Clackamas's Dan Sherrell to put the North back up by two scores.

“We spread the ball around and that allowed us to open up the run,” McLaughlin said.

The South would continue to stick around, scoring early in the fourth quarter to make it 24-21. With three minutes left in the game, the South stopped the North one yard short on fourth down and took over on their own 22-yard line.

But the North defense dug in and, on fourth-and-five, the North's Maurice McSwain from Aloha, picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown to all but seal the game.

The South would fumble for the fourth time in the closing seconds of the game and the North ran out the clock.

McLaughlin finished the game with two catches for 27 yards plus a pair of tackles. The North squad racked up 164 yards rushing in the contest and the defense forced seven turnovers.

McLaughlin will attend Oregon State University in the fall.

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