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Former Duck and Atlanta Falcon Chris Miller guides a young, talented team

Photo Credit: MATTHEW SHERMAN - From left, Sam Chitty, Brendan O'Brien, Collin Clarke, Cody Coppedge, Rudy Hughes and Nicholas Yokubaitis are all part of a strong core for the Lions this season, one that hopes to start quickly and contend in the new-look Three Rivers League.West Linn's football team is still a young group overall without an overabundance of experience but new head coach Chris Miller has injected plenty of enthusiasm and confidence into the Lions this year and the team could turn out to be sleepers in the difficult Three Rivers League.

The Lions have 13 seniors this year and Miller, a former NFL quarterback, is pleased with his leaders and the group's overall work ethic.

“These guys have come a long way since Memorial Day. There's a lot of young talent and it's a fun group to work with. It's a bit of a cliché but it really feels like the team is a big ball of play and we get to mold it,” Miller said.

When asked to point out his team's strengths, Miller was quick to mention his linebacking core. Collin Clarke, Nicholas Yokubaitis, Rudy Hughes and Ryan Anderson should help anchor a strong defense this season.

“We're really deep at linebacker. That's where a lot of our experience is,” Miller said.

The Lions' defense should be quick and athletic with a handful of players filling in on both sides of the ball although Miller hopes to limit the number of athletes that will be called upon for double duty this year.

Cody Coppedge and Elijah Molden give West Linn a strong secondary as a pair of speedy cornerbacks.

On the defensive line, eight to 10 players will likely see plenty of snaps this year.

On offense, the Lions have three strong contenders to win the job of starting quarterback.

Jake DeLozeer and Brooks DeBisschop each have strong arms while sophomore Tim Tawa is one of the team's top all-around athletes.

The Lions, after graduating working tailback Louie Germain, have three or four players who will likely see a number of carries during games this year and hope to provide West Linn with a powerful running attack.

West Linn is also deep at receiver with Coppedge expected to be one of the top pass catchers in the league. Connor Berggeren and Kurt Moon will also be big and reliable targets for West Linn in the passing game.

The Lions lost virtually their entire offensive line last season but, while the new group this year is young and without much varsity experience, it has plenty of size and potential.

Hayden Bell, Alex Forsyth, Connor Maloney, Jake Porter and Garrett Keizur should all make an impact up front for the Lions.

Kicking for West Linn this year will either be Tawa or Camden Nemec.

West Linn's overall athleticism all over the field figures to be one of its biggest strengths this year and the Lions expect to be fast-paced on both offense and defense.

“We have a lot multi-sport athletes and a lot of versatility,” Miller said.

While the Lions may be expected to be a team that improves as the season progresses, Miller has set his expectations high and hopes to be competitive from the get-go.

“I really hope we can start fast. Our No. 1 goal right now is to beat Oregon City at home in our opener,” Miller said.

West Linn will have little time to get initiated this season. After opening with Oregon City, a team many consider to be a contender for the state title this year, West Linn will travel to David Douglas and then open league play against Lake Oswego.

The Lions ended Lake Oswego's league winning streak last year but went 1-4 in the TRL. The league appears to be even tougher this year with the addition of Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin and Newberg.

“I wouldn't want it any other way. There are a lot of excellent coaches in this league. I don't think we have anything to lose. We're young and that makes us dangerous,” Miller said.

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