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The Lions score 24 unanswered first-half points and defeat the Crusaders at Jesuit High School.

PMG PHOTO: RALEIGH EMERSON - West Linn quarterback Sam Leavitt scores a touchdown, dragging Jesuit's Elias Johnson into the end zone during the two teams' game Thursday, Sept. 15, at Jesuit High School.In a battle of two of the state's best high school football programs, one team had it, while the other simply did not.

West Linn scored the game's first 24 points and then survived a valiant second-half Jesuit comeback attempt en route to a 31-20 Lions win Thursday night, Sept. 15, at Jesuit High School.

Led by what was a seemingly flawless first-half West Linn offensive attack that resulted in touchdowns by quarterback Sam Leavitt, receiver Mark Hamper and running back Koffi Kouame, the Lions dealt an overmatched Crusaders team what amounted to a lethal blow in the game's first 14 minutes.

"Nothing worked," Jesuit head coach Ken Potter said about the first half. "We didn't move the ball very well and made a lot of little mistakes, and in the end got beat by a better team today. But our kids showed resiliency and were really just a step or two away from making it happen."

He wasn't wrong. Despite struggling in nearly every facet of the game over the first two quarters, the Crusaders managed a quick score to start the second half when running back Payton Roth scored on a 49-yard run around end, then cut the lead to 24-13 when Roth again scored, this time on a 4-yard run with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter.

After West Linn turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession, Jesuit got the ball back with an opportunity to further close the gap as the third quarter wound to a close. But the home Crusaders' drive stalled near the Lions' 30-yard line and West Linn promptly marched 71 yards, culminating with a Ben Winjum 27-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.

Potter—despite being obviously disappointed—said his team would learn from the loss and would undoubtedly use it as a means of getting better as the season progresses.

"We'll get up tomorrow morning and prepare and not worry about what happened yesterday," he said. "We'll learn from this, but in the end it's just one game against a pretty good team."

PMG PHOTO: RALEIGH EMERSON - Jesuit running back Payton Roth carries the ball during the Crusaders' game against West Linn Thursday, Sept. 15, at Jesuit High School.And while Jesuit was left to lament the defeat, the Lions celebrated what was a pretty darn good win a week removed from a tough loss to Sheldon High School of Eugene.

"This meant a lot," West Linn's Hamper said. "After losing a heartbreaker like that one last week, one we should've won for sure, we just wanted to come out here and show how dominant we can be and how great we can be, and I feel like we did that."

Hamper went on to speak to the respect he had for the Jesuit team and program, but added that the West Linn program is pretty good too, and highly capable—which they showed tonight.

"I feel like the sky's the limit for this team," he said. "We've got top athletes and I'm just really looking forward to these next few games and seeing what we can do."

And Jesuit? Well, they've got some work to do. But Potter made it clear that while clearly disappointed, the loss is not the end of the world and won't dictate where they finish at the end of the year.

"Of course you'd like to win every game, but that doesn't happen all the time," Potter said. "So, you learn from the loss and continue forward towards your goal of winning that last game."

Leavitt finished 13-for-23 for 225 yards passing.

Kouame had 21 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown, while Hamper tallied six catches for 60 yards and a score.

Roth led Jesuit with 182 yards rushing on 26 carries before leaving the game in the second half with a lower leg injury.

Jesuit quarterback Jacob Hutchinson finished 12-for-19 for 96 yards passing, including a 10-yard scoring strike to junior receiver Jace Burton.

Jesuit will travel to Sherwood next week for a game with the Bowmen, while West Linn will host Washington's Lake Stevens High School.

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