West Linn steps up to shut down Tualatin 34-20
The Lions struck first.
The Timberwolves struck back.
But when the West Linn football team took control down the stretch of its Friday, Oct. 18, road game, the Lions struck down the Wolves for the first time this season, winning 34-20 at Tualatin High School.
Tualatin, after rallying from an early 14-point deficit, trailed by just one midway through the third quarter. But West Linn scored on two of their next three possessions to pull away and the Lions' defense shut down the T-Wolves for the game's final 18 minutes, 52 seconds.
"Anytime you're taking on a number one or number two team, it's one you prepare for and you always look forward to," said West Linn senior lineman Luke Popma, who helped the Lions rush for 261 yards and also came through with a key late-game sack. "And to play the way we did tonight was something special."
"Coming off the game last week, the disappointing loss, this is definitely a great one to have," said West Linn senior wide receiver/defensive back Ethan Loun, who finished with six catches and also intercepted a Tualatin pass. "When we're doing it right, we're the best in the state, I think. There's no question about it."
With the win, the Lions — fifth-ranked in the latest Class 6A coaches poll — shook off last week's painful loss to Lake Oswego, improved to 2-1 in Special District 5 play and 5-2 overall. Tualatin, second-ranked in the coaches poll, lost for the first time and fell to 3-1 in SD5 play and 6-1 overall.
"We had multiple opportunities and we just couldn't capitalize multiple times," said Tualatin senior lineman Bret Gydesen, whose second-quarter interception and return set the table for his team's second touchdown.
"I think most of what we're coming away with is it's a wake-up call," said Tualatin senior quarterback/defensive back Blake Jackson, who rushed 19 times for 55 yards and completed 5 of 12 passes for 20 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "At the beginning of our season, we came out and we were 6-0. All the games had been kind of easy, and then this game we come out in the first quarter and it was really tough."
The Lions made sure of that, stopping the Timberwolves on each of their first two series, then taking over at the Tualatin 30-yard line after a short punt. From there, West Linn junior running back Gavin Haines went 3 yards on first down, and on second down, senior quarterback Ethan Coleman hit senior wide receiver Casey Tawa in the right flat and Tawa broke free for a 27-yard touchdown that — along with junior Ben Siegel's extra point — gave West Linn a 7-0 lead with 5 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Lions came through with stops on each of the Wolves' next two series, too, eventually re-taking possession at their own 20-yard line two plays into the second quarter. From there, West Linn needed just one play to score, with Haines going over right tackle and breaking free for an 80-yard TD run that boosted their lead to 14-0 with 11:39 remaining in the half.
While West Linn got another stop on Tualatin's next series, the Lions couldn't take advantage of that opportunity. Instead, the Timberwolves got a stop of their own, getting tackles for losses from seniors Cody Van Meter and John Miller, and later, from senior Jake Reser to force a West Linn punt.
And Tualatin took advantage of that opportunity, driving 50 yards in seven plays to score, with senior running back Kainoa Sayre carrying four times for 34 yards, including a 2-yard TD dive to bring his team within 14-7 with 3:49 to go in the half.
There was more excitement ahead for the Wolves, too. Just three plays later, with West Linn facing a second-and-nine at its own 26, Coleman double-clutched on a screen pass to the right side, Gydesen picked off the throw and took it all the way back to the Lions' 5.
On the next play, Tualatin senior Luke Marion took a reverse around the right end to score from 5 yards out and tie the contest at 14-14 following Dominic Borges' PAT with 2:59 to go before the half.
While the T-Wolves wouldn't score again in the half, they also got a Miller interception with 49 seconds to go before the break.
"Yeah, those (turnovers were) huge," Gydesen said. "That gave us momentum and I think that was when we were playing our best football in the game."
Despite Tualatin's second-quarter heroics, West Linn made sure the Wolves' momentum didn't carry over into the second half. The Lions took the third quarter's first series and scored in just five plays, with Haines doing the honors on a 55-yard TD sprint over left tackle to push ahead 21-14.
Tualatin answered in-kind, powering through a 74-yard TD drive that included 17 rushing yards from Jackson, another 44 from Sayre (including a 30-yard burst to the Lions' 9), and then, a 9-yard TD pass from Jackson to Miller over the right side. But Borges missed the ensuing extra point and West Linn retained its lead at 21-20 with 6:52 to go in the third quarter.
The Lions then extended their edge just 26 seconds later when Coleman hit Tawa on a crossing pattern and he broke away from the Tualatin defense for a 93-yard touchdown. West Linn's extra point went awry, too, but its lead was 27-20.
The Lion "D" then helped seal the win, forcing quick T-Wolf punts on each of their next two series, with Haines dropping Sayre for a 6-yard loss after a catch on the first of those, and Popma sacking Jackson for a 5-yard loss on the second.
West Linn then put the game away with a 69-yard TD drive that saw Haines carry seven times for another 40 yards, including a 4-yard burst out of the wildcat formation to score and provide the final 34-20 margin with 7:39 left in the game.
"It's important to have a short memory," Popma said. "Momentum changes quickly and going out fast on that first drive of the second half really put us back in the driver's seat for this game."
"It was definitely a good one," Loun said. "We definitely stepped up in the second half with the defense. We just came together at the end. It was great to see."
On their side of the field, the Wolves vowed to learn from their mistakes and come back strong.
"I think we're going to come back and show everyone we're the Wolves," Jackson said. "I went in and I talked to the guys and I just said 'Hey. We didn't have our best practices this week. Everybody knows some guys were slacking and we've got to come back this week. We've got to be better. Everything needs to be sharp, 100% every play.'"
"We're going to come back and have a great week of practice and go on to Lake (Oswego)," Gydesen added.
For the game, Haines rushed 25 times for 236 yards and three touchdowns, Coleman went 16 of 29 passing for 238 yards with two TDs and two interceptions, and Tawa made four catches for 154 yards and a touchdown.
For Tualatin, Sayre ran 16 times for 117 yards and one TD, and Cade McCarty made two catches for 46 yards.
Next up, West Linn plays at Tigard at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, while Tualatin plays at Lake Oswego at 7 p.m. Friday.
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