Newberg football drops final game to West Linn
WEST LINN — Regardless of the result against the state's top team Friday, it was a historic season for the Newberg High School football team.
The Tigers (5-1) went undefeated in their shortened regular season before a 33-7 bowl game loss to West Linn, and coach Kevin Hastin's program captured its first Pacific Conference crown in years.
A loss to the Lions (6-0), who came into the game ranked No. 1 in the state in media polls, is still a seminal moment in the rise of Newberg's program — much like the Tigers' playoff loss to eventual state champion Central Catholic last season. The Tigers were ranked No. 3 coming into this game and proved they belong on the field with the state's elite teams, even in defeat.
"Our seniors have elevated the program big time," Hastin said. "Hat's off to them. We just didn't make the plays tonight and (West Linn) made big plays. It was a great season, and you don't want to end it like this, but it doesn't take away from the huge accomplishments we had this year."
Friday's game started on a scary note as Newberg sophomore Hudson Davis went down with an apparent shoulder injury on the first offensive play for West Linn. Davis had his head and neck stabilized by trainers before an ambulance took him out of the stadium. In all, the injury resulted in a 20-minute delay and was an emotional shock for the Tigers early in the contest.
West Linn opened the scoring with a four-yard run by Earl Ingle, making it 7-0 midway through the first. Newberg responded quickly, though, as senior wideout Owen Hawley returned a kickoff to the opposing 21, setting up a nine-yard touchdown pass from junior Levi Durrell to junior Sam Murphy.
The Lions retook the lead late in the first quarter on a 45-yard pass from Blake DeBisschop to Aiden Scott. Through one frame, West Linn led 14-7.
In the second quarter, DeBisschop tossed another touchdown pass, this time to Clay Masters from 35 yards out to make it 21-7. From there, the West Linn defense was key in maintaining its advantage.
Newberg had two opportunities to score in the red zone late in the half, but a pair of fourth down stops by the Lions stifled any Tiger hopes of shrinking the margin. At the break in a hard-fought contest, it remained 21-7 West Linn.
An interception proved a deflating play for Newberg in the early third quarter as Durrell lofted one into the arms of West Linn's Gavin Haines, who returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. After a failed two-point conversion attempt, it was 27-7 Lions.
West Linn used its strength up front to pound the ball on the ground for much of the remainder of the contest, milking precious seconds away that the Tigers could have used to stage a comeback. A handful of turnovers both ways had no impact on the final result.
West Linn tacked on one final touchdown late in the fourth on a pass by Ingle to an open teammate on a halfback pass, bringing the game to its final score.
Newberg wanted this game from the moment it beat Mountainside on April 2 to go 5-0. The challenge of facing the top team in the state was always in their sights, Hastin said.
"It's a measuring stick of where we want to be," he said. "We want to beat teams like that. There's times where we were really competing with them tonight, but they just made the big plays."
Newberg graduates 15 seniors, including Gabe Ramos, Armen Tarakhchyan, Hawley, Colby Hess, Henry Copeland, Johnathan McGraw, Dylan Stroup, Alex Valdez, Erik Vargas, Conner Croskrey, Gavin Russell, Mason Turpen, Alec Love, Jose Crisantos, and Connor O'Bryan. It is the first senior class to spend all four years in the program under Hastin's tutelage, a significance not lost on Newberg's coach.
This group of seniors was undeniably special to Hastin personally, and they led a team that made history: the upstarts from the Chehalem Valley who were willing to take on the best of the best.
"I knew they were a special group coming in as freshmen," Hastin said. "The commitment that they put toward the program over the four years was just incredible. Building a relationship with that group since the beginning, it's a strong bond. I'd do anything for these guys and they'd run through a wall for their teammates. I'm going to miss coaching them, and we've got some great guys coming back next year, too."
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