Junior quarterback Tim Tawa passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-28 West Linn victory

West Linn rallied around junior quarterback Tim Tawa to claim victory in the 95th game of the West Linn/Oregon City football rivalry, winning 40-28 before a packed house in a Friday, Sept. 4, season-opener at Oregon City High School's football stadium.BY JOHN LARIVIERE - West Linn quarterback Tim Tawa is pursued by Oregon City defensive end Austin Sillett during Friday night's game at Oregon City. Tawa had a career night, completing 28-of-40 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-28 West Linn victory.

The Pioneers struggled to slow the 6-0, 171-pound Lion junior until late in the game, and Oregon City was playing catch-up all the way.

Tawa was at the top of his game, completing 28-of-40 passes for 455 yards and five of the Lions’ six touchdowns. His on-target passes made things difficult for Oregon City’s defensive secondary all night, as he repeatedly found receivers wide open despite the Pioneers’ best efforts.

Tawa completed passes to nine different players and four West Linn players had touchdown catches.

Oregon City defensive back Trevon Bradford said of Tawa: “What makes him the great quarterback that he is is he makes the right reads, he’s consistent, and he is accurate with all his passes. He’s definitely one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever played against.”

Oregon City senior Tanner Smith said: “I’ve known Tim my whole life. Tim’s a stud, and he’ll be doing well the rest of the season. He’s going to have a great year!”

Tawa explained that he had extra motivation to win because the game was against his cross-river rivals in what is heralded as one of the oldest uninterrupted high school football rivalries in the nation.

“This game is huge for both teams,” he said. “Guys on both teams come into the game all fired up. The stands are packed with alumni who come out to watch us play. It’s an honor to play in this game, and it’s an honor to win. I’m just so proud of these guys. They played their hearts out tonight.”

“Playing in this game is a huge deal,” said Smith. “Ninety-five years in a row. That’s insane. And all those people in the stands. This is something that needs to keep going forever. It’s pretty awesome!”

Oregon City holds a 50-44-1 edge in the rivalry, which started in 1921. But the Sept. 4 win was West Linn’s 11th in the past 13 games between the two teams.

West Linn put the first points on the scoreboard with 1:05 remaining in the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from Tawa to Cody Coppedge.

The score remained 6-0 until Tawa found Austin Pesicka open in the end zone on a 16-yard thread-the-needle pass with 3:49 left in the first half.

Oregon City answered when Pioneer junior quarterback Dequahn Dennis-Lee connected with Sam Maughan for a 23-yard touchdown pass, making it 13-7 West Linn with 1:24 remaining before the intermission.

But that was enough time for Tawa to orchestrate another touchdown drive. And Tawa’s 6-yard on-the-money pass to Connor Berggren in a corner of the end zone made it 20-7 West Linn at the break.

A 36-yard pass from Tawa to Jake Meisen made it 27-7 West Linn barely 4-1/2 minutes into the third period.

Oregon City got a touchdown back on an 8-yard run by 5-8, 180-pound junior Danny Tkach near the midpoint of the third period.

But the Lions answered on their next possession, with Tawa’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Coppedge making it a 34-14 ball game.

The Lions had a slew of penalties down the stretch, and the Pioneers threatened a comeback.

Tkach capped off a 54-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to trim West Linn’s lead to 34-21 early in the fourth quarter.

Dennis-Lee gave the Pioneers renewed hope when he stripped the ball from a Lion receiver at the Oregon City 15-yard line with 10:23 still left to play.

And the Pioneers had a chance to make it a one-touchdown game when Dennis-Lee threw a picture perfect 30-yard pass to a wide open Breaymen Oster near the Lion 5-yard line. But the ball went through Oster’s hands, and West Linn stopped that drive short of the end zone.

West Linn senior running back Kahlil Monson busted a 35-yard run to the end zone to make it 40-21 West Linn with 3:35 remaining, and it was all over but the shouting.

Dennis-Lee connected with Trevon Bradford for a 15-yard scoring strike as time wound down. But it proved too little, too late.

The Pioneers were not without adversity in the loss. Their star running back, Conner Mitchell, left the field with a knee injury after West Linn scored its second touchdown.

West Linn finished with a 531- to 412-yard advantage in total offense.

Tkach rushed 20 times for 106 yards; Mitchell rushed 11 times for 49 yards. Dequahn Dennis-Lee completed 7-of-13 passes for 140 yards; Oregon City 5-11, 170-pound senior Riley Rexine completed 7-of-13 passes for 84 yards.

Maughan (6 receptions, 130 yards) and Bradford (6 receptions, 103 yards) both had big nights catching the football.

West Linn’s top receivers were Berggren (7 receptions, 170 yards) and Coppedge (8 catches, 103 yards).

Bradford said there were positives for Oregon City in the loss.

“I like how hard everybody played,” he said. “No one gave up. And I like the effort by our line and quarterbacks. Those were our biggest questionmarks going into tonight. And they played great.”

West Linn returns to the gridiron on Friday, Sept. 11, when the Lions play host to David Douglas; next up for Oregon City is a Sept. 11 away game with Lakeridge. Both games start at 7 p.m.

David Douglas dropped its opener to Glencoe 38-28, while Lakeridge edged Grant 31-27.

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