West Linn cruises to 41-6 win over McNary
Even though things weren't always smooth, the West Linn football team did more than enough to get the job done on Friday.
Junior quarterback Ethan Long led the Lions with three touchdown passes on the night as West Linn and its well-balanced offensive attack beat up McNary 41-6 in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs at West Linn High School.
"(McNary) came in with a great game plan. They were giving us some stuff early on the inside, so we had to take advantage of what they were giving us," Long said. "As the game progressed, the deeper shots down the field were open."
"Offensively, we didn't execute that well early. We were missing some easy stuff," West Linn head coach Chris Miller said. "We have some operational things to clean up, but all in all, I think we did a lot of good things."
With the win, third-ranked West Linn improved to 9-2 overall and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the fourth season in a row. Next up, the Lions will host sixth-ranked Three Rivers League co-champion Tigard at 7 p.m. Friday. The Tigers — who handed West Linn its only loss of the regular season, a 9-0 decision on Oct. 6 that ended the Lions' 18-game TRL winning streak — enter the game at 9-2 after beating Tualatin 38-7 on Friday.
No. 14 McNary, meanwhile, saw its season end at 7-4 after finishing fourth in the Greater Valley Conference and beating Grants Pass in its playoff opener.
In Friday's first half, the West Linn offense clearly wasn't firing on all cylinders, coming up empty on three separate drives into the red zone. Despite the early troubles, the Lions still managed to score more than 40 points for the sixth time this season.
After West Linn's 70-yard opening drive came up empty, running back Dawson Jolley made sure the Lions took advantage of their next opportunity. On the first play of their second possession, Jolley took a handoff from Long, hit a McNary defender with an aggressive stiff-arm and scampered 75 yards up the sideline for the score, putting West Linn on top 7-0.
"You have to give it to our receivers on the play for the blocking job they did on the outside," Jolley said. "That was just an overall great team play."
It wouldn't take long for West Linn to increase its advantage to two scores. The Lions defense forced McNary to go three-and-out on its next series, the Celtics made the mistake of punting to dangerous return man James Marshall.
Marshall took the kick at his own 34-yard line, danced around a slew of Celtic tacklers and ran all the way to the McNary 14-yard line before finally being dragged down. On the next play from scrimmage, Ahmir McGee broke through the line and found the end zone, increasing West Linn's lead to 14-0.
The Lions would then go up 21-0 late in the second quarter on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Long to Qawi Ntsasa.
While the West Linn offense eventually found its rhythm, it was the defense that was the real story of the first half. McNary only made two first downs in the first half and the Celtics didn't cross midfield until midway through the third quarter. The Lions' front seven wreaked havoc on sophomore quarterback Nigel Harris and the Celtics backfield all night.
"When we get a good rush on every play, it kills teams. They can't stop it," West Linn defensive lineman Justin Babcock said.
Friday's game marked the seventh time this season where West Linn has held an opponent under 10 points in a contest.
"Our defense has played well all year long. We've got some athletes that are really quick and reactive and that created some tough match-ups for (McNary)," Miller said. "Our front seven is pretty stout, but the reality is that we play really good team defense."
West Linn's offense opened the second half by going on a 10 play, 55-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by senior Tyler Good to boost the Lions' lead to 28-0.
The McNary offense finally showed signs of life later in the third quarter, scoring on a meticulous 70-yard drive that took 17 plays and ended when Jon Williams scored on a three-yard run with 1:48 remaining in the third quarter.
The Celtics then forced a turnover on West Linn's following possession and got their offense back on the field inside the Lions' 30-yard line. But a huge sack from Babcock pushed the Celtics back and forced them to turn the ball over on downs.
Two plays later, West Linn made certain that there was no way that McNary was getting back into the game. While the Lions' passing game to this point had featured a lot of short throws and swing passes from Long to Ntsasa and Casey Tawa, but when it came time to throw the ball down field, Long's favorite targets got all the separation that they needed.
Long connected with Ntsasa on a deep corner rout early in the fourth quarter, and Ntsasa took it in for the 45-yard score, putting the game well out of reach at 35-6.
Just for good measure, Long hooked up with Tawa moments later on a 79-yard touchdown that put the finishing touches on their team's dominant victory.
Playoffs (Second Round)