The Lions speed to a 42-0 halftime lead against Washington’s top-ranked big-school team
Let’s start with the jokes.
What happened the last time that West Linn football coach Jon Eagle’s team faced off against Lake Stevens, Washington? Answer: Vikings coach Tom Tri ran over Eagle’s dog in the parking lot.
Or what about this one — How great a host is the West Linn football team? So good that the Lions helped the Vikings start their 223-mile ride home early.
Whatever the motivation, West Linn (ranked third in the latest Class 6A coaches poll) absolutely devastated Lake Stevens (ranked first by Scorebook Live and fifth in the latest MaxPreps poll) on Friday, Sept. 23, leading by six touchdowns at the half and routing the Vikings 45-6 at West Linn High School.
The Lions admitted that they were surprised about the final score, but at the same time, they knew they were good enough to make it happen.
“Honestly, I did not expect that at all,” said senior running back linebacker Ben Winjum, who finished with nine carries for 38 yards and three touchdowns. “I thought it was going to be a (barn burner). I thought I was going to be a close game. But the way we played, I think that’s how every game could be.”
“I honestly had no idea. But we prepared like we were going to be playing the best team in the state like we do every week,” said West Linn senior linebacker/running back Earl Ingle. “We just play our game and we did a great job of that.”
“It’s just an outcome of what we give in practice every week,” said senior wide receiver/linebacker Mark Hamper, who made five catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. “We’re all in on practice every week. That’s where we’re winning these games. We’re winning these games Monday through Thursday, and then Friday just takes care of itself.”
“For me, I believe in my team,” said senior running back Koffi Kouame, who led his team with 10 carries for 97 yards and one TD. “I knew they were going to be a good team. … They were tough, but no one’s going to stop us.”
With the win, the Lions’ second straight, West Linn improved to 3-1 overall after its 35-31 loss to top-ranked Sheldon in Week 2. Lake Stevens, meanwhile, saw its two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2-2 overall. Next up, the Lions host unranked Lake Oswego (3-1 after a 42-12 win at McMinnville on Friday) in their Three Rivers League opener at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.
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West Linn was as hot as the surface of the sun in Friday’s first half, with the Lions scoring touchdowns on all six of their possessions while simultaneously holding the Vikings to just two first downs and 81 yards in total offense in the half.
West Linn’s six first-half drives went like this: the Lions drove 63 yards to score, with Kouame racing 43 yards up the middle for the TD; West Linn marched 73 yards to score, with senior quarterback Sam Leavitt hitting junior wide receiver Wiley Donnerberg for 44 yards and Winjum scoring on a seven-yard run; the Lions went 58 yards for their third score, with Winjum carrying on three of the final four plays, racking up 12 yards including his one-yard dive to make it 21-0 with 10 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first half.
West Linn drove 85 yards to score, with Leavitt hitting Hamper over the middle for a 34-yard TD; the Lions sped 70 yards in just five plays, with Leavitt connecting with Hamper for 25, Donnerberg for 30 and Winjum bashing in to score from four yards out; and finally, after getting the ball back deep in Lake Stevens territory with just 18 seconds left in the half, Leavitt threw a 29-yard strike over the middle to Hamper for another TD and a 42-0 lead at the half.
“When things are clicking, they’re just clicking,” Leavitt said. “I feel like this was our best week of preparation. We have a new head coach (and) we’re learning a new offense so I think we;’re just getting started.”
“Coach has been preaching to us that we can score 50 points in a half and this definitely proved it,” Ingle said. “We scored 42 in a half. That doesn’t happen a lot, but that might be our new normal, hopefully.”
“That was a great first half — we did what we had to do,” Winjum said. “I’m really proud of how our team played today.”
For the most part, after their lights-out first half, the Lions shut down their offense in the final two quarters. With the Vikings saddled with a running clock in the second half, West Linn junior kicker Gage Hurych — he made six straight extra points in the first half — hit a 20-yard field goal to boost his team’s lead to 45-0 near the end of the period.
Lake Stevens answered with its lone scoring drive of the game, marching 80 yards in 12 plays, with junior running back Esteban Sedano carrying six times for 21 yards, including a one-yard plunge for the final score with 45 seconds left on the clock.
For the game, Leavitt went 15 for 16 passing for 296 yards and two TDs, with Donnerberg catching three passes for 82 yards and junior tight end Gus Donnerberg grabbing four passes for 66 yards.
For Lake Stevens, Sedano carried 14 times for 78 yards and one TD, junior QB Kaden Laplaunt hit 9 of 17 passes for 131 yards, including five catches for 81 yards by senior Isaac Redford and three for 55 by senior Jayden Limar.
— Jerry Ulmer of OSAAtoday contributed to this story.
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