The Lions did it on the ground.
They killed it through the air.
And the West Linn football team did it with its defense, too.
In the end, though, the most important things the Lions did were these — they vanquished Tualatin 42-30 at Tualatin High School on Friday, Oct. 7, they put to rest the Timberwolves’ domination of a year ago, and they grabbed the 2022 Three Rivers League race by the throat.
“It feels so good,” said West Linn junior wide receiver/defensive back Wiley Donnerberg, who led his team with three catches for 94 yards and one touchdown, and also picked off one Tualatin pass. “I think this is definitely the league championship today. Coming out and putting up a score like this against the team that beat us so bad twice last year, it feels really really good.”
“We feel like we are the only team that can beat ourselves,” said senior wide receiver/linebacker Mark Hamper, who made four catches for 57 yards and one TD. “We’ve just got to keep putting the work in in practice and we’re going to keep seeing outcomes like this against big teams.”
“It feels really good,” said junior tight end/linebacker Gus Donnerberg, who made five catches for 82 yards and one touchdown, and also picked off a Tualatin pass. “It means everything after losing to them twice last year. It feels really good.”
“We needed this win as a team, not for rankings and all that — just for us emotionally,” added senior quarterback Sam Leavitt, who completed 14 of 23 passes for 251 yards and four TDs. “We came out better. … This meant something to us and we came out and got one.”
With the win, the Lions’ fourth straight, second-ranked West Linn improved to 2-0 in Three Rivers League play and 5-1 overall. No. 4 Tualatin, meanwhile, lost for the first time, saw its five-game winning streak snapped and fell to 1-1 in TRL play and 5-1 overall. Next up, the Lions host Tigard (2-0, 6-0) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14.
The Lions took control early, getting a stop on the Timberwolves’ first series, then marching 80 yards in seven plays to grab a 7-0 lead. Senior Koffi Kouame carried three times for 16 yards on the drive, while Leavitt completed two of four throws, including a 25-yard strike to Gus Donnerberg over the left side for the score just 5 minutes, 17 seconds into the game.
After a trade of punts, the Wolves marched 58 yards to score and tie the contest at 7-7, with senior quarterback Jack Wagner hitting junior A.J. Noland for 40 yards, and four plays later, senior running back Luke Ash banged in to score from two yards with 1:31 to go in the period.
Undaunted, the Lions answered in just four plays and 1:13, with Leavitt throwing to Wiley Donnerberg on the left side and Donnerberg breaking loose for a 53-yard TD and a 14-7 lead.
The following nine minutes saw West Linn’s Jackson Shelstad pick off a Wagner pass, Leavitt fumble the ball away two plays later, Wagner lose a fumble to Lion senior Earl Ingle, and West Linn give the ball back on a failed fake punt.
After Tualatin took over at the Lions’ 39 (after the failed fake punt), the Timberwolves needed just one play to score and tie the game, with Wagner hitting junior Jayden Fortier for a leaping TD grab with 2:56 remaining in the half.
But that wasn’t the end of the first-half highlights. No indeed.
West Linn took the ensuing possession and marched 78 yards to score in just eight plays, with Leavitt hitting three straight passes for 38 yards — highlighted by a tackle-breaking 25-yard grab from Hamper — and senior running back Ben Winjum carrying three times for 37 yards, including his one-yard TD plunge for a 21-14 lead with 44 seconds to go in the half.
Tualatin, meanwhile, came back by racing 61 yards in seven plays to set up sophomore Calvin Evans’ 37-yard field goal that cut the Lions’ lead to 21-17 on the last play of the half.
West Linn pushed its lead to 28-17 on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, with Leavitt handing off to Kouame on first down and Kouame bursting through a big hole and speeding 52 yards to make it 28-17 12 seconds into the half.
Tualatin responded with an 80-yard TD drive that included a 62-yard Ash run, and two plays later, a six-yard Ash TD run that brought his team within 28-23.
The Lions, however, just kept scoring.
They took their ensuing possession and drove 66 yards to paydirt in just six plays, with Kouame carrying four times for 20 yards and Leavitt completing two straight throws for 44 yards, including a 17-yard slant to Hamper over the left side for a 35-23 lead midway through the third quarter.
Tualatin pushed back with a 59-yard scoring drive of its own, with Wagner hitting Ash for 38 yards, and four plays later, Wagner scrambling for a two-yard TD that cut his team’s deficit to 35-30 with 2:32 to go in the quarter.
The Lions added their final score after Gus Donnerberg intercepted a Wagner pass at the Tualatin 43 with 11:40 left in the contest. From there, Kouame ran twice for 14 yards, and three plays later, Leavitt hit Wiley Donnerberg over the left side for a 14-yard TD and a commanding 42-30 lead.
From there, Wiley Donnerberg stopped Tualatin’s last solid scoring chance with an interception in the Lions’ end zone.
“We were a young team last year, and now, we grew up. We got better,” Wiley Donnerberg said. “Their defense, they just couldn’t stop us. We have so many different weapons on our offense that if they try to stop one of us, there’s two or three or four more of us that can move the ball.”
“They’ve got so many great athletes all over the field that it’s going to take a quarter or two against a great team like that to get used to their speed and athleticism,” Hamper said. “But once we did get used to it, we saw success on defense.”
“They had a couple decent drives, but I thought most of their big plays were made on deep balls, and once we took away the deep ball, I thought we had it,” added Gus Donnerberg.
For the game, Kouame carried 16 times for 148 yards and one score, while Winjum ran six times for 62 yards and one TD. For Tualatin, Ash carried 21 times for 132 yards and two scores, while Wagner ran 15 times for 58 yards and one TD. Wagner completed 19 of 37 throws for 314 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. Fortier caught four passes for 86 yards and senior Richie Anderson made five catches for 86 yards.
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