It could not have been closer.
The difference between the two teams could not have been smaller.
And the night's final result could not have meant more.
In the end, the West Linn football team got a field goal from sophomore Gage Huyrich in overtime and used that razor-thin edge to beat Lakeridge 10-7 in the Class 6A state quarterfinals at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City on Friday, Nov. 19.
"It was a hard-fought win," said West Linn senior wide receiver/defensive back Mark Hamper, who rushed 18 times for 72 yards and made three catches for 31 more yards and his team's lone touchdown. "We knew what we were getting into coming into this. We were just preparing for a dogfight all week. … It was a hell of an opponent, a hell of a game."
"That was definitely a nail biter," said West Linn junior quarterback/linebacker Earl Ingle, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 105 yards and one TD and carried twice for eight yards. "We definitely put the weight on our best guys' shoulders. I mean, Mark (Hamper) had a heck of a game. We are so fortunate to have him and some of our other great players make plays out there."
With the win, the team's seventh straight, second-ranked West Linn improved to 11-1 overall after tying for the Special District 5 title. Next up, the Lions will face No. 3 Tualatin — a 42-13 winner over No. 6 Summit in its Friday quarterfinal — in the state semifinals at Hillsboro Stadium on Friday, Nov. 26.
"I hope that we can go as far as we possibly can," Ingle said. "I know that with our coach and our players, we will."
On their side of the ledger, the 10th-ranked Pacers saw their two-game winning streak snapped and ended their year at 8-4 overall after finishing fourth in SD5. The loss marked Lakeridge's second quarterfinal playoff loss in a row.
"We had great coaches. We had a great bond," said Lakeridge senior running back/defensive back Jake Reichle, who rushed 22 times for 122 yards and one touchdown in the Pacers' loss. "I'm really sad; I don't know what to say."
"We just didn't get it done on that side of the ball," said senior linebacker and team captain Zac Waible, the team's leading tackler in 2021. "But our defense is probably the best defense in the state. Everyone's such a hard worker. We have a lot of (Division 1) guys."
While there was almost no scoring in the game — that from teams averaging 26 points a contest each — the Lions took the night's opening possession and marched 80 yards to score in 6 minutes 44 seconds, with Hamper rushing eight times for 40 yard and catching an 11-yard Ingle pass at the right flag for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 5 minutes, 16 seconds to go in the first quarter.
After a pair of punts, the Pacers answered with their lone TD of the game, putting together a 79-yard drive that took 7:58 off the clock and ended when Reichle went off-tackle left for 10 yards and the score with just 1:46 remaining in the half.
Along the way, Reichle carried six times for 41 yards, while junior quarterback Ryan Oliver completed three straight passes for 41 more yards, including two throws to junior Jace Swygard for 33 yards.
After that — with the score tied 7-7 at the half — the game turned into a defensive slugfest. The Pacers drove as far as the Lions' 27-yard line at the start of the second half — a possession highlighted by Oliver's 32-yard strike to junior Lucas Burkeen — before turning the ball over on downs.
West Linn came back with a solid drive of its own — including a 12-yard completion from Ingle to sophomore Wiley Donnerberg — but saw it stall out at the Pacers' 42.
Lakeridge's next series resulted in a short punt that gave the Lions possession at the Pacer 33-yard line with 10:53 left to play, but they failed to score again. After pushing as far as the Lakeridge 11-yard line, West Linn saw Huyrich's 28-yard field goal attempt blocked by Pacer senior Nui Tovey.
After another trade of punts and a late bomb to Lakeridge sophomore Joey Olsen that fell incomplete on the final play of regulation, the two teams rolled into overtime still tied at 7-7.
There, the Pacers managed just four yards on their first three plays, then saw Reagan McDowell's 37-yard field goal attempt miss to set the stage for the Lions' final possession.
Hamper picked up 16 yards to the Pacers' 9-yard line on first down and — after two losses — Ingle hit Donnerberg for 11 yards to the four. Ingle ran to the one before a penalty pushed the Lions back and Huyrich ended the night with his 23-yard field goal.
"As soon as it came up I knew it. I could feel the weight came off my foot — I knew it," Huyrich said of the first game-winning kick of his career. "It's huge. It's something to put on my list, especially against Lakeridge in a tight game."
"We could not have asked any more from our defense," Ingle said. "Allowing a team like that to only score seven points in the entire game, that is actually amazing. I can't believe it myself."
The Pacers, meanwhile, left disappointed but proud of their efforts in the loss.
"All of us are really good friends off the field and we hang out all the time," Waible said. "And that translated to the field and us trusting each other."
For the game, Ingle completed 11 of 20 passes for 105 yards and one TD, while Oliver completed 6 of 12 throws for 76 yards. Both senior Jaxon Steinhauer and Donnerberg caught two passes for 23 yards for West Linn, while Swygard caught two balls for 33 yards for Lakeridge and Burkeen two for 30.
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