West Linn football steps up to beat No. 1 Lake Oswego 31-14
The West Linn football team remembers.
The Lions remember only too well.
They remember when they were the top-ranked team in the state and Tualatin handed them a painful loss.
So they took that memory and turned it in their favor Thursday, Oct. 21, when they knocked off previously unbeaten and top-ranked Lake Oswego 31-14 during a constant rainstorm at Lake Oswego High School.
"I think we just trusted in our game plan — that's something we didn't do against Tualatin — we trusted our game plan, we worked with our coaches all week, we put in the work and we executed," said West Linn junior running back/free safety Mark Hamper, who rushed nine times for 50 yards and one touchdown and also intercepted a Lake Oswego pass. "That's what led to this 'W.'"
"This one feels amazing," said junior quarterback/linebacker Earl Ingle, who completed 5 of 9 passes for 91 yards with one TD and also rushed six times for 39 yards and another score. "Coming in against the No. 1 team in the state, it's just a huge win for us. We definitely tested ourselves this week. We had a great week of practice, and we played lights out."
"I believe we can beat any team in the state," added senior running back Jaxon Steinhauer, who rushed 13 times for 107 yards and one touchdown in the game. "I'm very confident in our team, and this win really solidifies it."
With the win — the Lions' third straight — West Linn improved to 3-1 in Special District 5 play and 7-1 overall, putting the Lions in a three-way tie for first with both Lake Oswego and Tualatin. The Lakers, meanwhile, lost for the first time, saw their seven-game winning streak snapped, and fell to 3-1 in SD5 play and 7-1 overall.
"We're a great team, they're a great team too, and I think they just out-executed us," said Lake Oswego senior wide receiver/defensive back Justius Lowe, who made two catches for 40 yards and one touchdown. "We failed to execute our game plan and they came out on top so props to them."
"I think this will definitely teach us a lesson," added Lake Oswego senior running back/cornerback Gabe OIvera, who carried 21 times for 114 yards and also caught two passes for 63 yards and one touchdown. "I think us taking this loss today, before the playoffs, will help us in the long run and will eventually push us to be a better team."
The Lions came out hot on Thursday, taking the game's opening possession and driving 76 yards to score, with Hamper rushing twice for 21 yards, Steinhauer carrying twice for 19 and Ingle breaking free for a 17-yard TD run up the middle and a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
On Lake Oswego's second series — following a fumble recovery by Lake Oswego senior Paul Stephens — the Lakers needed just three plays to score, the capper a 25-yard strike from LO senior quarterback Jack Layne to Lowe at the left flag that tied the game 7-7 midway through the first quarter.
The defenses held the upper hand for the next six minutes, but Lake Oswego pushed in front 14-7 with 7:33 to go in the first half when Layne connected with Olvera for a leaping catch between three defenders in the middle of the field that he turned into a 53-yard touchdown.
Undaunted, West Linn responded on its ensuing series, marching 71 yards in nine plays to tie the contest 14-14 with 5:01 left in the half when Ingle hit sophomore wide receiver Wiley Donnerberg over the middle for a 26-yard score.
But that was the end of the offensive highlights for the Lakers. In the second half, Lake Oswego's four offensive series failed to produce a point, with the Lakers turning the ball over on downs, punting, throwing an interception and running out of time at the end of the game.
West Linn, meanwhile, got a field goal and two touchdowns on its three second-half possessions to pull away.
Lions' sophomore kicker Gage Hurych gave his team a 17-14 lead on a 21-yard field goal with 3:06 to go in the third quarter. Then, after West Linn forced an LO punt, the Lions scored in just five plays, with Ingle hitting Donnerberg for 22 yards, Steinhauer carrying twice for 16 yards, and finally, Hamper going around right end untouched for a 12-yard touchdown run.
"That felt good," Hamper said. "I had a shaky first half, I'd like to say, so I just had to bounce back in the second half. It really got me excited."
Already ahead 24-14, the Lions saw Hamper snuff out the Lakers' next drive when he picked off a Layne pass at the West Linn 5-yard line and returned it 57 yards to the LO 38. Four plays later, Steinhauer broke loose up the middle for a 19-yard TD run and a 31-14 lead with just 3:21 left in the contest.
"The 'O' line blocked super well," Steinhauer said. "We could not have done this thing without them. I think this is the best game they've ever had. They opened up holes, not only for me, but for the other running backs and I couldn't be more proud of them."
On their side of the field, the Lakers said they would use the loss to fuel their improvement.
"We deserved this," Lowe said. "We deserved to take this loss, but we're going to learn from it and continue on. We're not done for sure."
"I think this will definitely teach us a lesson," Olvera added. "I think that we definitely could have done way better than we showed."
For the game, Layne completed 11 of 21 passes for 175 yards and two TDs with one interception. Donnerberg led the Lions with three catches for 63 yards and one score.
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