On the one hand, the West Linn football team's 2019 state playoff opener was everything it should have been.
The Lions piled up 10 touchdowns, racked up almost 650 yards in total offense and rolled to a lopsided 70-29 win over Roosevelt at West Linn High School on Friday, Nov. 8.
But then there was the other hand. On the other hand, the Lions threw three interceptions, turned the ball over four times, were penalized nine times (two of which erased TDs) and dropped a handful of passes.
In the end, the Lions were happy to have won, glad for the night's positives and determined to eliminate their mistakes next week.
"This week in practice, we had a lot of guys who were a little banged up which was a big part of us looking sloppy," said junior running back Gavin Haines, who rushed nine times for 90 yards and one touchdown, and also caught two passes for 103 more yards and two more TDs. "I think we could have executed better. … I think we came out thinking we could beat this team by more than we did. You can't take anyone for granted."
"We've got great coaching. We've got great players. We have all the talent in the world. We've just got to eliminate all of the little mistakes we make because that's what always drags us down," said West Linn junior wide receiver Clay Masters, who made seven catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns. "We always beat ourselves when things are going wrong."
No one personified the Lions' hot-and-cold playoff performance more than senior quarterback Ethan Coleman, who completed 17 of 25 passes for 411 yards and six touchdowns — along with three interceptions.
"With this game, everybody treated this almost like a loss. Nobody was really hyped about it because there were a lot of plays left on the field so I think that'll be a good motivator," Coleman said. "(Part of) it was me, with three interceptions, which is no (good), so I think we've just got to buckle down."
With the win — the fifth-ranked Lions' second straight — West Linn improved to 7-3 overall after finishing fourth in Special District 5. No. 28 Roosevelt, meanwhile, ended its year at 5-5 after placing second in Special District 1. Next up, the Lions will host No. 12 Sherwood (a 49-7 winner over McNary on Friday night) in the second round of the playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15.
While the Lions' win was impressive, decisive and emphatic, things started poorly — very poorly — for West Linn. Coleman threw interceptions on each of his first two throws — those picks by Marcus Chitala and Malique Sabb — with the second one setting up the Roughriders' first score.
After Sabb picked off Coleman's throw at midfield and returned it to the West Linn 21-yard line, Roosevelt scored six plays later when Timothy Price Jr. smashed into the end zone with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
Suitably awakened, West Linn responded with a 66-yard TD drive of its own, with Coleman completing 4 of 5 throws for 48 yards, Haines — who had a 66-yard TD run wiped out by a penalty — rushing for 26 yards and sophomore Cole Peters scoring on a 2-yard run to tie the game 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
As slow and mistake-ridden as the opening quarter had been for the Lions, the second quarter was a Usain Bolt sprint of a period, with West Linn scoring six touchdowns, racking up 42 points and taking a dominant 49-21 lead into halftime.
The Lions started that span with a 46-yard Coleman TD pass to Masters over the left side on the first play of the second quarter. West Linn's Zyion Nelson picked off an Imarion Kelly pass on the next play from scrimmage, and one play after that, Coleman hit senior Ethan Loun on the left seam for an 18-yard score that came just 23 seconds after Masters' TD.
After the West Linn "D" forced a three-and-out, the Lions saw Haines break a 22-yard touchdown run for his team's third TD in less than three minutes.
Next up, after a trade of turnovers — a fumble recovery by West Linn's Thomas McNamara and an interception by Roosevelt's Roshellio Sanders — and a Riders' three-and-out, Coleman connected with Masters over the middle for a 57-yard touchdown.
Six plays and 2:23 later, Coleman threw to Haines over the left side and he cut back right for a 52-yard score that extended the Lions' lead to 42-7.
The two teams traded turnovers again after that — an interception by West Linn's Kace Naone and a fumble recovery by Roosevelt's Hayden Humiston — to set up a stretch of three touchdowns in a span of just 28 seconds.
The Roughriders started that explosive run with a 22-yard TD throw from Kelly to Sabb. The Lions answered with a Coleman throw to Haines for a 57-yard touchdown. And Roosevelt's Damarzhe Nelson capped the half when he returned a West Linn kickoff 75 yards with two seconds left before halftime to cut West Linn's lead to 49-21.
While the second half wasn't as wild as the second quarter — the Lions outscored the Riders 7-0 in the third quarter and 14-8 in the fourth — there was still plenty of excitement. West Linn got an interception by Flynn Schiele midway through the third quarter, and after that, the Lions stitched together a 66-yard TD drive that saw Haines rush twice for 33 yards and Coleman go 3 for 3 for 31 yards, including a 9-yard TD throw to Masters at the left flag.
And finally, in the fourth quarter, West Linn got two scores from sophomore Jaxon Steinhauer, the first of those an 8-yard dive, and after a 7-yard Price TD for Roosevelt, a 59-yard burst over the right side for the final 70-29 score with just 1:11 remaining on the clock.
"I think when we do things well, we are one of the best in the state. The sky's the limit," Masters said. "We've got (playmakers) all over the place, we've got depth — I think when we are operating to our full capacity, we can take anyone on."
"Our line really has come together this year," Haines added. … "This game, every screen we ran, there were at least two guys on every linebacker I saw so they're really coming together, doing their job and it's really fun to watch."
Steinhauer led Lions' rushers with 98 yards and two TDs on seven carries, Loun caught five passes for 74 yards and Jackson Shelstad caught two passes for 52 yards.
For Roosevelt, Sabb ran 11 times for 71 yards, Nelson carried 12 times for 58 yards, Kelly went 9 of 18 passing for 94 yards and one TD with three interceptions. Sabb led his team with two catches for 43 yards and one score.
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