The Lions make their mark in league-opening victory over Lakers
If anyone in Oregon had any doubts about the West Linn football team, those misgivings must be long gone now.
The fourth-ranked Lions opened Three Rivers League play with a thunderclap, shutting out Lake Oswego (no. 9 in the latest statewide Class 6A coaches poll) 49-0 before an estimated 7,000 fans at West Linn High School on Friday, Sept. 30.
“Everybody’s making plays,” said West Linn senior quarterback Sam Leavitt, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed three times for 74 yards and another TD. “I want to give congrats to all my teammates. I just have to give the ball to my receivers and they make the plays.”
“Obviously, I came out late and I’m rusty — I haven’t played in two years — but this team’s been great with me. The coaches have been working with me and I really appreciate it,” said Lion senior wide receiver/defensive back Jackson Shelstad, who made two catches for 34 yards and one TD, and also intercepted a Lake Oswego pass. “I’m still getting back into it, but … our receiver core is super good.”
With the win, the Lions’ third straight, West Linn improved to 1-0 in Three Rivers League play and 4-1 overall. Lake Oswego, meanwhile, saw its one-game winning streak snapped and fell to 0-1 in TRL play and 3-2 overall.
Despite the lopsided nature of their loss, the Lakers saw some positives from their performance against West Linn.
“I think we played really well as a group. On defense, we stuck to our jobs,” said junior offensive lineman/linebacker Tobia Tagliabue. “I think the main thing I can say that set the tone for the night is we left it all out there on the field.”
“I think there’s a lot of potential with this squad and we did move the ball well at times,” said LO sophomore quarterback Liam Davis, who made his first varsity start and completed 5 of 17 throws for 118 yards with one interception. “We got down there (deep in West Linn territory) on that one drive, but we’ve got to finish. Once we start finishing those drives, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
That said, the Lions took control early, recovering a Davis fumble on the Lakers’ first series, then scoring in just three plays. Senior running back Koffi Kouame ran twice for 10 yards, and from there, Leavitt rolled right, reversed field and hit senior wide receiver Mark Hamper for a 36-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
After the West Linn defense forced a three-and-out, the Lions marched 80 yards in 11 plays to make it 14-0. They got a 21-yard scramble from Leavitt, a 26-yard Leavitt-to-Wiley Donnerberg (a junior wide receiver) completion, a 15-yard Leavitt throw to junior wide receiver Hunter Haines, and finally, a six-yard Kouame run for the score.
The Lakers came back with their best drive of the game, marching 70 yards to the Lions’ five before the drive short-circuited. Along the way, Davis hit senior wide receiver Stevie Mooney for 14 yards and connected with senior wide receiver Owen West for 29 more. The Lakers also benefited from two West Linn penalties on fourth downs that kept their series alive.
But with LO facing fourth-and-one at the West Linn six-yard line, senior running back Calvin Macy got stopped half a yard short of the first down and the Lakers never got closer than the Lions’ 42 the rest of the way.
While the West Linn “D” shut down the Lakers the rest of the way, the Lions’ offense just kept rolling. After a 39-yard completion from Leavitt to senior tight end Gus Donnerberg, Leavitt connected with Shelstad for a 22-yard TD that gave heir team a 21-0 lead with 5:48 to go in the first half.
Then, after Shelstad picked off a Davis pass at the Lions’ 23-yard line, West Linn needed just three plays to score. First, senior running back Ben Winjum went 11 yards over the right side. Next, Leavitt hit Wiley Donnerberg on the left side and Donnerberg made a big-time run for 64 yards to the Lakers’ two-yard line that set up Winjum’s TD on the next play and a 28-0 lead at the half.
The Lions kept pressing in the second half, too, opening the third quarter with a 75-yard scoring march capped by Leavitt’s thrilling 59-yard scramble for another score and a 35-0 lead that forced a running clock with 10:15 to go in the third quarter.
Then, early in the fourth quarter, junior quarterback Nick Sakys hit sophomore wide receiver Danny Wideman over the middle on third-and-nine and Wideman broke a tackle and turned the catch into a 46-yard score and a 42-0 Lions’ lead.
And finally, with time running down and the Lions keeping the ball on the ground, sophomore running back Hudson Hardy broke free for a 45-yard TD that gave his team its final 49-0 margin.
As dominant as their performance had been, the Lions know they need to continue working and improving.
“I got a little undisciplined on certain things,” Leavitt said. “We’ll have to see the film, but we definitely need to clean up some things.”
“We’ve got to clean up the penalties for sure,” said Shelstad, referencing his team’s eight penalties for 90 yards. “That’s something we can definitely clean up, and (after that, it’s) just getting better every week.”
For their part, the Lakers vowed to learn from the loss and move forward.
“I don’t think anyone will look back at the game and say ‘I wish I had tried harder,’” Tagliabue said. “I think this loss is pretty hard, but it’s going to bring us closer together as a group and make us work together even better.”
For the game, Wiley Donnerberg led the Lions with four catches for 105 yards, Hamper made five catches for 60 yards, and Kouame carried 10 times for 54 yards.
For LO, Davis started fast by hitting five of his first seven throws for 118 yards before getting shut down by West Linn the rest of the way. Mooney led LO receivers with two catches for 37 yards, while senior Ethan Park made one catch for 35 yards.
Next up, West Linn plays at no. 4 Tualatin (1-0 in TRL play, 5-0 overall on Friday, Oct. 7, while Lake Oswego hosts Oregon City (0-1 in TRL play, 3-2 overall) at 7 p.m. Friday.
See the Play of the Day by clicking here
See the Photo of the Day by clicking here.
See the complete photo gallery from this game by clicking here.
To see even more images from this game, or to buy prints or digital downloads from this game, go to milesvance.smugmug.com.