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The Lions break away to win after being tied 3-3 at halftime in their season opener.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn junior Luke Hamper glances back at the nearest Jesuit defender after making a fourth-quarter interception during his team's 17-3 win at Jesuit High School on Friday, Sept. 3.Let's be honest — there weren't a ton of big plays in the first half of the West Linn-Jesuit football game on Friday, Sept. 3.

But the Lions made sure to change that narrative in the second half, getting two big plays, two touchdowns and a stellar defensive effort to beat the Crusaders 17-3 at Jesuit High School.

"It's a big win," said West Linn junior wide receiver/linebacker Mark Hamper, who finished with nine catches for 143 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "Playing a team like Jesuit is always an honor. We've been preparing for it all summer and it's just great to come out on top with the victory."

"For our first game, we put up some good numbers so I'm excited, definitely excited that our team played well together," said sophomore wide receiver Wiley Donnerberg, who added six catches for 78 yards and his team's other TD.

Perhaps even more impressively, the Lions' defense held Jesuit to 219 total yards, 90 on the ground and 129 through the air.

"The linebackers were key," said senior defensive back Jordy Tawa. "We were running a lot of blitz man to help stop the run. The 'D' line and linebackers did their jobs, the quarterback didn't have a lot of time to throw it and the secondary shut it down. So it was a group effort on all ends."

With the win, West Linn improved to 1-0 in non-league play in the new season, while Jesuit fell to 0-1. Next week, West Linn hosts North Medford (0-0 after its opener against Del Norte, California, was canceled) at Wilsonville High School at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, while Jesuit hosts Tigard (0-1 after a 48-6 loss to Sunset) at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

"It's a step back, for sure," said Jesuit junior linebacker Garrett Speer, who had 1 ½ sacks in the loss. "But we're gonna bounce back next week even stronger. By the end of the year, we'll have it figured out and we're coming."

"We're just trying to get clicking and get moving," said Jesuit sophomore quarterback Jacob Hutchinson, who went 13 of 31 passing for 129 yards with one interception. "We had flashes of good and we had flashes of not-so-good, but that comes with week one."

West Linn 17, Jesuit 3

The two defenses held the upper hand throughout Friday's first half, with West Linn limiting Jesuit to just four offensive plays and five yards in the first quarter.

The Lions, meanwhile, dominated possession early, running 22 offensive plays in the opening frame to the Crusaders' four — but West Linn didn't score in the first period either, eventually taking a 3-0 lead when Gage Hurych hit a 21-yard field goal on the third play of the second quarter.

After two more fruitless possessions by each team, Jesuit got a big run from junior Noah Staley to the Lions' 23-yard line, and three plays later, a 40-yard field goal from sophomore Kadyn Butcher that tied the score at 3-3 on the final play of the half.

The West Linn defense opened the second half with another stop, and after taking over at its own 35, the Lions' offense finally clicked. Senior running back Jaxon Steinhauer started with two carries for 16 yards, and then senior quarterback Chase Harmon — in his first game as a starter — found Hamper wide open over the middle for a breakaway 49-yard touchdown and — after Hurych's extra point — a 10-3 lead with 7 minutes, 26 seconds left in the third period.

Neither team scored again in the third, but the Lions took over for their second touchdown drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Harmon hit Donnerberg for 13 yards to get things started, and two plays later, Harmon connected with Hamper down the sideline for a 54-yard pickup to the Jesuit 10-yard line.

After being backed up to the Crusaders' 25 on a penalty, West Linn needed four more plays to score, with Harmon hitting Donnerberg for a 14-yard touchdown at the right flag that boosted their team's lead to 17-3 with 8:15 to go in the game.

Jesuit's last two drives came up short as well, the first of those stopped at the West Linn 11-yard line with 2:23 left in the clock, and its last chance short-circuited when Hamper picked off a Hutchinson pass at the 15 and took it back 59 yards to the Jesuit 26 with one minute remaining.

"I think in the first half, we just needed to get our offense warmed up," Hamper said. "We knew our defense was going to be there … (but) we just needed to get warmed up in that first half and it was smooth sailing after that."

"There were those two big plays that they had, but other than that, we executed our calls," Speer said. "The coaches, they thought we did good except for those last two."

For the game, Harmon completed 18 of 23 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns, while Steinhauer led West Linn rushers with 12 carries for 33 yards. For Jesuit, Staley carried six times for 48 yards and senior Michael Rincon rushed 14 times for 42 yards.

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