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The Lions graduated a ton of talent last spring, but bring back a ton for the fall.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn senior quarterback Chase Harmon is quickly proving himself as the Lions chase more success in 2021.Little more than five months ago, the West Linn football team was {obj:56835:the state's best}.

But that version of the Lions graduated a ton of influential seniors. What about the 2021 version of West Linn? Can this fall's iteration of the Lions be nearly as good?

No one knows for sure, but that's certainly the team's goal.

"We'll worry about league when we get to that point. I'm not worried about projecting it," said West Linn coach Chris Miller. "I think with us, it's a cliche, but we just need to get better every day."

Offense

The 2021 Lions will build behind three returning senior starters on the offensive line, senior quarterback Chase Harmon (6-foot-1, 178 pounds) — "He put in a lot of work … he takes it very seriously and works his butt off," Miller said — and a killer receiving corps.

Those leaders on the line are Braylon Cornell (6-6, 275), Eric Mee (6-2, 242) and Jake Rams (6-0, 275), and Miller expressed great confidence in their ability.

"They have that experience and … they really gelled well together (against North Medford)," Miller said. "It's a group that may not turn into trained killers, but I think they will do a good job and continually improve."

When Harmon goes to the air, he'll look to senior Mark Hamper (6-3, 202), sophomore Wiley Donnerberg (6-3, 188), senior Lucas Reininga (6-6, 185), senior Barret Brundage (6-2, 181) and senior Jordy Tawa (5-9, 168). Holmes and sophomore Gus Donnerberg (6-3, 185) play tight end.

"I've got really good wide receivers," Miller said, adding that "Mark Hamper is our guy right now. He's … strong as an ox. He can run (and) he's probably our best leader overall. He has a really high football IQ and acumen."

Senior Jaxon Steinhauer (5-10, 185) and junior Koffi Kouame (5-9, 175) — a transfer from Beaverton — will get the majority of carries at running back.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn senior Earl Ingle leads the Lions' defense as an outside linebacker.

West Linn

Head coach: Chris Miller

2020-21 record: 5-0 in Three Rivers League play, 6-0 overall

2021 outlook: ""We'll worry about league when we get to that point. … We just need to get better every day." — Chris Miller

League contenders: Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Lakeridge

Defense

On defense, the Lions will look to junior Jake Holmes (6-3, 227), senior Nate Watton (6-2, 209) and junior Eric Murtagh (6-2, 199) at defensive end — "They're good-sized kids and very athletic," Miller said — and senior Ashton Henderson (5-9, 244), junior Calvin Reynolds (6-1, 235) and senior Liam Gordon (6-0, 235) at noseguard.

At linebacker, senior Earl Ingle (6-1, 197) leads the way, along with senior Zeke Viuhkola (6-3, 189), junior Ben Winjum (5-11, 192) and sophomore Ryan Vandenbrink (6-1, 195).

"We've got a great linebacking corps," Miller said, adding that Ingle "is our top dog. He's a beast at outside linebacker."

And in the backfield, Hamper — "He's a ball hawk," Miller said — goes at free safety and Tawa leads the way at cornerback, along with junior Hudson Staats (6-0, 168), sophomore Gabe Howard (6-2, 185), Brundage and Donnerberg.

"Tawa has been phenomenal at corner. He's got really good technique," Miller said.

Now, the Lions just have to keep working and improving.

"That's been the biggest challenge I've seen — each day in practice we've just got to get better," Miller added.


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