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Lakeridge football: a change of attitude

Administrators say tougher rules, higher expectations will prevent a repeat of 2013's controversial season


Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck (left) and Lakeridge High School Principal Jennifer Schiele have vowed to keep a close eye on the embattled Pacer football program, currently on probation for OSAA violations.Lakeridge High football players risk being suspended from the team or ejected for the entire season if they violate Oregon School Activities Association rules.

That’s the message administrators and officials are delivering as the Pacers get ready to kick off their 2014 gridiron campaign Sept. 5 against Sheldon. It’s a new year, players are being told, with new expectations — and last year’s behavior simply won’t be tolerated.

“There have been daily talks about sportsmanship,” said Lakeridge Athletic Director Ian Lamont. “We are going to uphold the high standards of Lakeridge, and the high standards that the game of football and its history have set.”

Last year, Lakeridge players didn't meet those standards.

Lakeridge players committed 41 personal fouls, were called for unsportsmanlike conduct 21 times and averaged 150 yards inLAMONT penalties in the 2013 season. In the Pacers’ last game, a quarterfinal playoff loss to Jesuit, the Crusaders opted to take a knee on four consecutive fourth-quarter downs rather than risk injury or incident, and the teams were encouraged not to meet at midfield for the traditional post-game handshake.

The OSAA fined Lakeridge $2,500 — and placed the school on four years’ probation — because of the rash of penalties. The school was fined an additional $9,750 when the OSAA board found that 39 coaches, including 14 in the football program, lacked the proper certifications. It is the largest fine levied by the OSAA in at least two decades.

Another incident, in which a volunteer coach allegedly punched a player, resulted in a lawsuit against the district that is still pending.

Lamont, along with OSAA officials, Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck and Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele, has spent the summer implementing a plan to prevent a repeat of the 2013 season. Schiele said student athletes this season will prove what they’ve learned on the field, and Beck also is confident that things are going to go well.

“I think it’s going to be a great season,” Beck said. “I think Dr. Schiele has done a good job of putting in safeguards to ensure positive experiences, because I think that’s what extracurricular activities are about: positive experiences.”

Making changes

School officials have created a stricter code-of-conduct contract for players and formed a committee to monitor and promote Lakeridge athletics, including football. At least one school administrator will attend every football game. Beginning with the first kickoff and continuing throughout the year, referees will submit regular game reports to the OSAA and to school and district administrators.Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Tim Price, Lakeridge High football defensive line coach, offers feedback to players during practice Tuesday evening.

But many of the changes for 2014 involve greater consequences and accountability for the players themselves.

“Our student athletes are committed to being part of a football program that sets the highest expectations for them,” Schiele said, “not only to play the game of football and to compete with the best teams in the state, but also to play the game by the rules, with dignity, humility and respect.”

Lakeridge athletes have long signed an OSAA code-of-conduct contract, but this year’s document included a second page, specific to Lakeridge football players, that laid down clear rules about what would happen following penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness.

“If a kid gets (called for) unnecessary roughness,” said Lamont, “they’re coming out (of a game) right away.” He said players were removed for such personal fouls last season, but it “didn’t happen consistently enough.”

Multiple unnecessary-roughness incidents could lead to dismissal from the team. For a first unsportsmanlike-conduct call, a player will sit out for the rest of the half of a game in progress. A second unsportsmanlike-conduct violation will result in ejection from the game and a possible suspension for the rest of the season. A third such violation? A student could be kicked off the team for good.

In short, students don’t get to play if they misbehave. And administrators will be watching. Head Coach John Parke will attend every game, unlike last year, when former Head Coach Tom Smythe retired mid-season. Lamont said he’ll attend every game, even away games. Schiele and Beck also will be on hand for some games.

“I love to go to the games; I love to support our teams,” Beck said.Photo Credit: REVIEW  PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Were not a win-at-all-costs program, says coach Chad Carslon, Lakeridge Highs offensive coordinator. Were a team that wants to have success in the right way.

Schiele and Lamont have been observing football practices and will continue to do so. Lakeridge administrators will discuss game reports, practices and other football-related issues during Monday meetings of the Pacer Success Committee. The committee will include Lamont, Schiele, Parke, two rotating senior players, three parents involved in the football program and two parents who are not involved in the program.

“I think the most important thing is that we have moved forward,” Lamont said. “We definitely learned a lot last year, and we’re excited about the challenges that face us this year.”

The Pacer Success Committee will monitor and promote the team and help uphold the new Lakeridge Football Lifestyle that coach Chad Carlson has created. The LFL focuses on concepts such as respect, work ethic and scholarship.

“All of our coaches are committed to being great role models, and they constantly discuss with our students the importance of taking pride in their accomplishments and in improving skills, not just the final score,” Schiele said. “It is the school’s responsibility to teach sportsmanship to our student athletes.”

Players already are putting the lessons into action and are reaching out to the community. Team members collected more than 2,227 pounds of nonperishable food for Hope Sparrow Services, a charitable outreach program of Hope Community Church in Lake Oswego. It’s the first year the football team has done the food drive, but the plan is to make it an annual event, said Tom Krueger, chairman of the Pacer Success Committee.

“The community service event was something we’ve been wanting to do, and we said now is definitely a good time to do that,” Krueger said.

The new Lakeridge Football Lifestyle website will keep the community apprised of Pacer football happenings and students’ community service and achievements. Beck said she’s proud of the teens’ hard work.

“I think the students have really stepped up,” she said.Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Lakeridge player Beau Bryant, left front, and Jack Holum practice their moves Tuesday while defensive line coach coach Tim Price looks on.

Looming consequences

If the team doesn’t live up to administrators’ new expectations, the OSAA executive board has the power to step in and suspend players or sanction coaches. The board also could bar the football team from the state playoffs, although OSAA Executive Director Tom Welter said that’s not likely.

Technically, failure to comply with OSAA regulations also could result in the expulsion of the school from the OSAA, a nonprofit organization that maintains standards in school activities and is composed of member schools. But that, too, is unlikely, Welter said. That punishment would extend to all of the athletics programs at the school, and it would be unfair to Lakeridge students who play other sports or participate in other OSAA-sanctioned activities, Welter said.

“We try to make the punishment fit the crime,” he said.

Still, last year’s rocky season has put the spotlight on Lakeridge.

“The OSAA Executive Board, made up of superintendents, principals, athletic directors and a school board member, considers the Lakeridge violations to be very serious,” Welter said.

Overcoming errors

Last year’s penalty-heavy season came amid a time of divided leadership for the football program.

In January 2013, Smythe proposed that Carlson, a sports-savvy former coach at Lincoln High School who was “like a son to him,” come on board as his volunteer offensive coordinator. Smythe would continue to oversee the overall football program, according to a Lakeridge report. But when Smythe returned from an off-season trip to Europe, the two men began to have disagreements about the upcoming season. Photo Credit: REVIEW  PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Lakeridge player Beau Bryant, left, grapples with and Jack Holum while Camden Wulf reaches out to both players during practice Tuesday. The long shadow cast at the young men's feet is that of defensive line coach coach Tim Price.

Smythe retired before the 2013 season was over, creating a rudderless team. Carlson muddled along on his own.

At a board meeting in February 2014, Schiele claimed full responsibility for all of the errors made during the 2013 season and said she believes a key issue was that “we did not have an acting Lakeridge High School head coach with clear lines of authority and responsibility. I was trying to help a legendary coach pass on his legacy and retire with pride, and in that spirit I agreed to something before the season began that proved to be unworkable.”

Schiele called allowing the Smythe-Carlson arrangement “a regrettable decision.”{img:48371}

Earlier this year, Carlson applied for the vacant head-coaching position. But former Superintendent Bill Korach, who recently retired, did not recommend Carlson for the job.

“I was not willing to support Chad as the head coach at Lakeridge,” Korach recalls. “I was willing to have him as an assistant if Lakeridge wanted him.”

In April, the board chose to hire Parke, and Parke brought on Carlson as director of football operations and offensive coordinator.

Besides strife among the football team’s leaders, there were other coaching issues. In August 2013, volunteer coach Michael Cole allegedly punched a student athlete during training. Cole was dismissed from the team following his arrest; the player, Marqueese Royster, has filed a $501,500 lawsuit against Cole and the Lake Oswego School District that is still pending.PARKE

Despite all of the turmoil and issues, the 2013 season was one of Lakeridge’s winningest seasons ever. The team won nine games and made it to the state quarterfinals. Many players attribute that performance to Carlson, who acknowledges that discipline “is important in the game.”

“We’re not a win-at-all-costs program,” Carslon said. “We’re a team that wants to have success in the right way.”

Parke said he will be there to support the embattled coach this year.

“Chad Carlson’s knowledge of football is amazing. He has great relationships with his players and staff,” Schiele said. “It was very clear from his interview and his actions every day that he loves Lakeridge High School and is committed to the entire program and school. It was Carlson who created the new plan to teach the Lakeridge Football Lifestyle, and those guiding principles will steer our football program.”

Added Schiele: “I also have complete faith in Coach Parke.”


By Jillian Daley
Reporter
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For more information about the Lakeridge football program, visit http://www.lflpacers.com. For concerns about the Lakeridge football program, call the school at 503-534-2319. Start with the school, but major concerns also may be brought to the attention of Joe Morelock, the district’s executive director of secondary education, at 503-534-2000.