Seasoned West Linn squad hopes to be major factor in Three Rivers League

by: VERN UYETAKE - From left: Braden Vogt, Kevin Edwards, Hayden Coppedge, Cam Schmitz and Louie Germain all figure to play key roles for a West Linn team that could be among the most improved in the league this year. The experienced Lions hope to be among one of the top teams in the TRL again this season.West Linn's football team has the benefit of a full year under head coach Mike Fanger's system to go along with an experienced group of 22 seniors plus a handful of athletes who are out for the team this season who didn't play last year.

If all goes according to plan, it could add up to a big season for the Lions as they look to rebound from a 1-4 showing in league to, once again, be among the upper echelon of the tough Three Rivers League.

“I think the guys are more familiar with the terminology now. We had a really good off-season with conditioning and it's a really great group to coach,” Fanger said.

Returning at quarterback will be Hayden Coppedge who had to learn on the fly last year after joining the team late and ultimately winning the starting job.

“He's very comfortable now. It was great to have him through the spring and summer. He's a big kid at 6 feet 4 inches, so we want him to be in the pocket and let him make plays,” Fanger said.

Coppedge has a strong arsenal to throw to, including returning senior Cam Schmitz and returner Braden Vogt.

He will also be looking for his younger brother, Cody Coppedge, along with Ty Cleland and Elijah Molden.

“We'll rotate a lot of guys in. It's a deep group,” Fanger said. Ben Jacobs will do the place kicking duties for West Linn this year.

The Lions also return their running back in Louie Germain who put up big rushing numbers last season.

“We'd like to be pretty balanced this year, but if we can run the ball we're going to do it,” Fanger said.

West Linn has size and experience on the offensive line with Ellis Eaton, Hudson Kennedy, Tyler Self, Isaiah Molden and Noah Bagley. The only new position of that bunch is at center and Fanger has been giving each of those players time at different spots to give them experience barring any injuries.

That group will also see plenty of time on the defensive line along with Joe Cozey.

Kurt Moon and Kevin Edwards will give the Lions a pair of strong tight ends as well.

At linebacker, West Linn is solid with three strong athletes. Schmitz, Edwards and Ryan Anderson all have experience and should be an anchor on a sound defense.

In the secondary, many of West Linn's receivers will see double duty with Elijah Molden, Vogt, Cody Coppedge and Germain giving the Lions plenty of speed against the passing attack.

West Linn appears to have few weak spots and, with its size and experience up front, will look to establish the run whenever possible but should be very versatile.

“We'll try to do a little bit of everything. We've been trying some misdirection stuff, and I think we play catch well. There aren't too many burners on our team but they run routes well and we have a guy who can get them the ball,” Fanger said.

The Lions open up the season with a stiff test, hosting Couer d'Alene, a team that has made the Idaho state title game three years in a row and topped the Lions handily last season.

West Linn will also play at Grants Pass and Barlow and will host South Salem before getting into league.

For the first time in a while there may not be a clear-cut favorite in the league but there are also no easy games.

“Lake Oswego's still the king until someone beats them. They definitely know how to win. For us, it's just trying to be prepared and do the little things that will separate us in close games. It's a fun team to be around and they're looking forward to getting out there and going to work,” Fanger said.

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