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Pacers fend off Grant, give Akpla first win

Lakeridge overcomes injuries and wears out the Generals in the second half

MATTHEW SHERMAN - Lakeridge receiver Austin Peters puts a stiff-arm on a Grant defender during last week's game at Lincoln High School. The Pacers rallied in the second half for a 31-27 victory.Lakeridge showed some early resiliency in its season opener against Grant last week. The Pacers were inspired to give new head coach Elvis Akpla a victory in his first game, one that would be made even more special since it was played on the field of his alma mater at Lincoln.

The Pacers mounted a second-half rally and fended off a late charge for a 31-27 victory despite their starting quarterback and tailback going down in the first half.

Much was made of Lakeridge's uptempo offense this year and it was on display early in the contest. After Grant tried an onside kick to start the game, the Pacers needed less than two minutes to score from midfield.

Keaton Wood hit tight end Micahel Kuhn in the end zone for a seven-yard score, the first of the season for Lakeridge.

But Grant responded with a methodical drive, primarily moving the ball on the ground, eventually scoring from 28 yards out. However, Lakeridge blocked the extra point to retain a 7-6 lead.

After a three-and-out, Grant was on the move again, scoring with less than a minute to play in the first quarter and converting a two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.

On Lakeridge's next drive, Holden Catlett ripped off a 54-yard run but pulled up inside the red zone with an injury. That drive would end with an interception.

Midway through the second quarter, Lakeridge tallied its first defensive stop of the game and then went 50 yards, as an 18-yard catch by D.J. Dalzell set up a five-yard touchdown run from Nick Hoddevik to tie the game.

Again Grant had an answer, chewing up four minutes of clock and converting on third down three times to set up a 32-yard touchdown catch with three minutes to play in the half.

Dalzell took over at quarterback for Wood who appeared to injure his ankle and quickly got the Pacers into scoring range with a 31-yard scramble.

“The injuries threw us off a little in the first half but once we got into our rhythm we moved the ball well,” Akpla said.

Another first down run from Dalzell set up a 39-yard field goal attempt from Sam Wurtz which narrowly cleared the crossbar, giving the Pacers some momentum despite trailing 21-17 at the break.

“I'm really happy with how we played as a team. We always know we have to be ready for anything,” Dalzell said.

The teams traded turnovers in the third quarter but Lakeridge would start to wear the Generals down. Brandon Doblie had a pair of big first down runs, followed by a 23-yard run from Hoddevik to set up a two-yard keeper by Dalzell as Lakeridge regained a 24-21 lead.

“They were tired. We knew if we played at our tempo the whole game, we could do it,” Dalzell said.

On Grant's next possession, cornerback Cole Riedl came up with the biggest play of the game. Riedl stepped in front of a pass and took it 65 yards for a score and a 10-point lead with nine minutes to play.

“It's tough to get used to the way we play and, honestly, this is half as fast as we can go,” Akpla said.

But Grant wasn't done. The Generals converted on fourth down and had a key pass interference call go their way, leading to a two-yard touchdown with 2:40 to play.

Lakeridge recovered the ensuing onside kick but couldn't get a game-clinching first down. Grant took over at its own 40-yard line and missed a go-ahead touchdown on a long pass by just inches. Its fourth down pass then fell short as Lakeridge celebrated on the sideline.

For the game, Dalzell had 25 yards passing, 61 yards rushing and 35 yards receiving. The Pacers ran for a total of 273 yards in the contest.

The Pacers were one of 7 Three Rivers League teams to pick up a victory on Friday and hope that the victory adds to their early momentum.

Next up for Lakeridge is 0-1 Oregon City, a team coming off a loss to West Linn last week.