Tualatin mistakes lead to 42-30 loss to West Linn on the gridiron
The Tualatin Timberwolves made their share of big plays against the West Linn Lions on Friday night.
The Lions made more — on both sides of the ball.
West Linn quarterback Sam Leavitt threw four touchdown passes, tailbacks Koffi Kouame and Ben Winjum ran for one score each, and the defense forced four Tualatin turnovers, leading the Lions to a 42-30 Three Rivers League road win over the previously undefeated Timberwolves.
West Linn never trailed in a game that saw two of this season's Class 6A heavyweights trade scores from beginning to end.
The Lions took a 21-17 lead into halftime and then seized the momentum when Kouame scored on a 52-yard run on the first play of the third quarter to make it 28-17.
After that, each time Tualatin scored, West Linn answered and the Lions (5-1, 2-0 Three Rivers) maintained at least a five-point cushion the rest of the way.
The Timberwolves (5-1, 1-1) had the ball trailing 35-30 early in the fourth quarter,Â but the Lions' defense stepped up and helped seal the win with two interceptions — one by Gus Donnerberg with 11:40 remaining, and another by Leavitt with 6:18 to play.
"What a great feeling," Lions' center Ridge Huot said. "I think we had that game won from the start. There's really not much to say. We had a little bit of adversity at times, but we battled through it and we ended up getting a win."
West Linn also saw Friday's win as payback for what happened a year ago when Tualatin beat the Lions 49-14 in the regular season and then ended West Linn's season with a 35-13 victory in the Class 6A semifinals.
"Through and through, we wanted to beat them so bad," Huot said. "We knew what they did to us last year. We just wanted to come out firing, come out hot, and beat 'em, overall.Â
"They couldn't stop us. That's always fun."
Playing with the lead for most of the game was a plus, too.
"A game like that, you don't want to be playing catch-up," Huot said. "I mean, you saw that with Tualatin. They just couldn't do it. We just kept our foot on their throat and ended up winning the game."
West Linn took a 7-0 lead when tight end Gus Donnerberg caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Leavitt to cap an 80-yard, seven-play scoring drive with 6:43 to play in the first quarter.
The Lions' other first-half scores came on a 53-yard pass from Leavitt to Wiley Donnerberg and on a one-yard run by Winjum.
Tualatin countered with a two-yard touchdown run by Luke Ash, a 39-yard TD pass from Jack Wagner to Jayden Fortier, and a 37-yard field goal by Calvin Evans on the final play of the second quarter that made the score 20-17.
Kouame, West Linn's senior tailback, produced one of the game's biggest plays to open the third quarter when he ran straight up the middle behind Huot, the Lions' 6-foot-2, 265-pound junior, and sprinted untouched to the end zone, pushing the lead to 28-17.
"The hole was wide open," Kouame said. "It was like 10 yards wide, wide open. When I saw that, my eyes got bigger and I just ran through it."
Said Huot: "When everyone on the O-line makes the blocks that they're supposed to make, that's what happens. It was a great way to start the half."
Tualatin answered with Ash scoring his second touchdown on a six-yard run, but the Timberwolves botched the point-after try, leaving the deficit at 28-23.
West Linn then went on a seven-play, 66-yard scoring drive that ended with Mark Hamper catching an 18-yard touchdown pass from Leavitt to give the Lions a 35-23 lead with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
After Wagner scored on a two-yard run for Tualatin to make it 35-30, West Linn failed to convert on fourth down at the Timberwolves' 36-yard line, giving the ball back to the home team with a chance to go for a go-ahead score.
The Timberwolves needed only one play to cross midfield, but on the next play, West Linn's Hamper tipped a Wagner pass and Gus Donnerberg intercepted for the Lions.
Four plays later, Leavitt connected with Wiley Donnerberg on a 16-yard touchdown pass that closed out the scoring with 10:39 to play.
"That was incredible," said Leavitt, who completed 14 of 23 passes for 248 yards and added eight carries for 25 yards. "I've got dudes all around me and I've just got to get them the ball.
"Someone told me I had four touchdown passes and I was like, 'That wasn't me. That's our receivers, right there. I'm just getting them the ball.' It was a big-time win. We needed this win as a team, not so much for rankings and all that, but just for us emotionally. And we came out and got it."
Tualatin racked up 519 yards in total offense, but it was hard for the Timberwolves to look past their four turnovers — three interceptions and one fumble — as well as some costly penalties and missed tackles.
"We needed to limit the mistakes," Timberwolves' tight end Richie Anderson said. "Jumping offsides, dropping the ball … if you don't have those, it's a different game. Some tipped balls, some fumbles … I mean, it was an all-mistake game, but there wasn't one time in the game where we ever gave up.
"When it was 35-30 and we got the fourth-down stop, I was like, "We've got it, right here.' But then we made a mistake and that's what happens. The game can get away from you just like that against a great team."
Wagner completed 19 of 39 passes for 307 yards, Anderson caught five passes for 86 yards, and Ash led the ground game with 20 carries for 129 yards.
"I loved our fight," Timberwolves coach Dominic Ferraro said. "I loved our effort. We left it all out on the field tonight, so you can't ask for anything more.
"The game was close enough that we never panicked. That was actually the first time we've been down all season, and the first time we didn't score on our opening drive all season. But I thought we handled the adversity well.
"Give West Linn credit. They do a really good job of spreading the ball around and I'm sure watching the film tomorrow will tell us a lot. But like I said, I'm proud of our guys for the way that they played. It was a really good high school football game. I don't like losing, but it was fun to be a part of that game."
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