The Lions use their running game to power past the Generals on Friday.
There’s nothing, it seems, that can stop the West Linn football team these days.
Not any of the teams in the Three Rivers League. Not playoff foe Grant, that’s for sure. And not even the wild weather that highlighted the Lions’ postseason opener on Friday, Nov. 4.
Indeed, while Friday’s driving rain and blustery wind put West Linn’s potent passing game on hold, it didn’t matter.
Not a bit.
Instead, the Lions adjusted to the conditions, punished the Generals on the ground and ran away with a 59-0 victory at West Linn High School in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
“We knew the weather was going to be bad, so we just came out here and tried to run the ball,” said West Linn senior running back Koffi Kouame, who carried 25 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns. “We knew they couldn’t stop us.”
“We’ve got to adjust to every scenario,” said Lion senior quarterback Sam Leavitt, who threw for just 33 yards, but also rushed seven times for 101 yards and two TDs. “They started playing up close and we tried to take a couple shots up the field, but it was just too wet for that so we put our weight on our ‘O’ line and let them do their thing.”
“We just put it all together and proved that we are not a one-dimensional team,” added junior offensive lineman Stephen Del Giudice, who helped the Lions rush for 514 yards on Friday. “It’s a great way to start. … We came out and handled business and did what we needed to do.”
With the win, the top-ranked Lions’ eighth straight, West Linn improved to 9-1 overall after winning the Three Rivers League. No. 16 Grant, meanwhile, lost for the second straight time and ended its year at 6-4 after winning the Portland Interscholastic League.
Next up, the Lions will host No. 8 Sherwood — a 48-6 winner over No. 9 South Salem in its Friday playoff opener — in the state quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11. The Bowmen enter Friday’s game carrying a six-game winning streak after winning the Pacific Conference title.
“Right now, it’s who wants to stay in these kind of conditions more,” said senior linebacker/running back Earl Ingle, who carried 10 times for 79 yards with two TDs against Grant.
“It’s the same thing — grind throughout the week, stay disciplined — and we need to make sure we’re taking care of our bodies and all that,” Del Giudice said. “I think we have the team, the depth and the coaching and everything we need. We just need to take care of ourselves and just keep pushing forward.”
As to Friday’s game, the Lions dominated in every way possible. They outscored the Generals 59-0. They outgained Grant 547 yards to … wait for it … five. And they prevented the Generals from getting a first down — not one — despite turning the ball over twice.
With the Lions’ defense in complete control, the West Linn offense had all the room it needed to do what it needed to do, beginning with a 58-yard drive that included six Kouame runs for 39 yards, including an eight-yard TD burst midway through the first quarter.
While West Linn gave the ball away on a fumble on its next series, it didn’t matter. The Lions “D” forced a third straight three-and-out, and after that, West Linn needed just five plays to score.
Kouame carried twice for 32 yards on that series and Leavitt did the rest, finishing the drive by scrambling left, cutting back and racing 30 yards for a 14-0 lead with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
While the Lions fumbled the ball away again on their next series, it — again — didn’t matter.
The West Linn defense shut down Grant on three downs again, and from there, the Lions took over on the ground. Kouame carried six times for 34 yards, and after that, West Linn went to Ingle and he finished the possession with four straight carries for 35 yards, including an 18-yard dive for a 20-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the half.
The Lions, however, were far from done in the first half. Indeed, in the final 3:48 of the half, West Linn scored two more touchdowns to essentially end the game before halftime.
On the first of those two drives, West Linn senior Mark Hamper picked up 13 yards on two plays, while Kouame capped things with a 45-yard scoring burst with 3:26 left in the half. Next, the Lions forced Grant senior quarterback Kellen Segel out of the end zone for a safety, and after that, Leavitt ran for 46 yards, Ingle added another 15, and Leavitt went left for an 8-yard TD that boosted the Lions’ lead to 36-0 at halftime.
There were more highlights to come in the second half — played with a running clock throughout — beginning with a 68-yard scoring march that saw Ingle carry four times for 37 yards, including a three-yard TD off right tackle to make it 42-0.
After a second safety pushed the Lions’ lead to 45-0, West Linn took the ensuing possession and drove 47 yards in just four plays to score again, with sophomore Hudson Hardy finishing with a 10-yard TD run.
And finally, after the West Linn defense’s last three-and-out, the Lions drove 69 yards for their last score, with junior Nick Sakys capping the series with a 67-yard run up the middle.
“We have so many weapons — we can run it and we can pass it. It doesn’t matter,” Kouame said. “Our offensive linemen try really hard and do a good job doing what they can do.”
“We’ve got one of the best lines in the state to run behind — we’ve got tons of great depth out there — so we might as well just start pounding the rock,” Ingle said. “And then we can put in the occasional pass now so it was just perfect for us.”
For the game, Sakys added 71 yards on three carries and Hardy 40 yards on three rushes.
See the complete slideshow from this game by clicking here.
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