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The Lions built a 42-0 lead by halftime on their way to winning the Three Rivers League title on their rivals' home turf.

COURTESY PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - West Linn's Bo Dickson (9), Baron Naone (87) and Hunter Harding (61) lead  the top-ranked Lions onto the field before Friday's Three Rivers League game at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City.

The West Linn Lions made quick work of the rival Oregon City Pioneers on Friday night, Oct. 28.

How quick? Like lightning.

West Linn quarterback Sam Leavitt threw five touchdown passes in the first nine minutes as the top-ranked Lions clinched the Three Rivers League title with a 55-13 blowout victory at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City.

Mark Hamper caught two first-quarter touchdown passes, and Gus Donnerberg, Jackson Shelstad, and Danny Wideman grabbed one each for the Lions, who opened a 42-0 halftime lead before turning the game over to their reserves with a running clock in the second half.

COURTESY PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - West Linn's Mark Hamper spins out of a tackle and powers into the end zone to give the Lions a 21-0 lead with 8:15 to play in the first quarter for Friday's Three Rivers League game against Oregon City.

West Linn shared the league title with Lake Oswego and Tualatin last season, but the Lions (8-1, 5-0 Three Rivers) dominated the circuit this time around, outscoring their league opponents 267-63 to secure their third outright TRL title in seven seasons.

"We're league champs, so let's start there," Lions coach Jon Eagle said. "That's a great accomplishment for these kids. They've put a lot of time and effort to get here. And you beat your rival, so two good things in one night."

West Linn made it look so easy. The Lions scored touchdowns on each of their first six possessions, while the Pioneers' first six possessions netted 53 yards of total offense with one first down, one fumble, one turnover on downs and four punts.

"Sometimes the ball just bounces that way," Eagle said. "We've got a really good group of receivers and a really good quarterback, and they're capable of doing that to you. We're just executing like we want to, and I feel really good about where we are in terms of execution. And we're playing very well defensively, too.

"I still think we've got to tackle better, honestly. So, that's something to work on."

West Linn's defense set the tone on the first play of the game with a forced fumble that defensive back Hudson Staats recovered for the Lions on the Oregon City 28-yard line.

"First play and we fumble the ball," Pioneers coach Shane Hedrick said. "You can't have turnovers, especially on a drive like that. The whole point of getting the opening kickoff was to try and sustain a drive and build some confidence. And, doggone it, we fumbled it."

Two plays after the turnover, Leavitt connected with Hamper on a 28-yard touchdown pass to put the Lions on top 7-0 with 11:38 to play in the first quarter.

COURTESY PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - West Linn's Koffi Kouame scored on a one-yard run to give the Lions a 49-0 lead in the second quarter for Friday's game against Oregon City at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City.

West Linn's next five scoring drives were the same — quick and easy. Sixty-one yards in one play. Fifty-five yards in five plays. Sixty-four yards in four plays. Fifty-three yards in two plays. And, finally, sixty-four yards in two plays with Koffi Kouame scoring on a one-yard run to make it 42-0 with 11:55 to play in the second quarter.

All combined, the Lions' first six drives covered 325 yards and produced six touchdowns.

Said Eagle: "The first part of the season, the players were thinking, 'What's the formation? Am I lined up correctly? OK, this is the play. What am I supposed to do?' So, there was a lot of thinking, but now, finally, we're just playing, because we know our assignments.

"Every coach in America wants to get to that point when your kids aren't thinking, they're just playing. And that's what we're doing right now. We're just playing football."

West Linn piled on in the second half with Nick Sakys throwing a 54-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt Smiley that made it 49-0 midway through the third quarter. Baird Gilroy also connected with Bo Dickson on a 29-yard TD pass for the Lions on the final play of the game.

Oregon City (4-5, 1-4) avoided the shutout when Marcus Jordan scored on a 34-yard run to cap a five-play, 47-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. Clay Martineau then intercepted a West Linn pass to set up the Pioneers' second touchdown, a one-yard run by quarterback Ben Schneider midway through the fourth quarter.

COURTESY PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Marcus Jordan struggled to find running room against West Linn's defense in Friday's Three Rivers League match-up against the top-ranked Lions at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City.

"We played a heckuva football team tonight, you know, and you've got to give all of the credit to them," Hedrick said. "Our kids are getting better, but they've still got to take that next step to play at this level.

"I've been around a long time, and that quarterback gets the ball out quick, he's accurate, they've got really good receivers, and they've got some running backs. That's as good of a high school football team as I've seen in 30 years."

Clearly, West Linn is among the favorites heading into next week's opening round of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs. The big question: Are the top-seeded Lions ready for what's next — a home game against the No. 16 Grant Generals (6-3) of the Portland Interscholastic League?

"They're all good now," Eagle said ahead of seeing where his team actually fell in the 16-team championship bracket. "A lot of times in these situations, my job is to prevent our kids from getting too full of themselves. We always say, 'Winning masks problems, and losing exposes problems.'

"So that's the challenge — to keep trying to get better even though your players think they're doing well."

Oregon City earned the No. 19 seed in the Columbia Cup playoff bracket and will play host next Friday to the Ida B. Wells Guardians (5-4) of the PIL.

"One of the best things the OSAA did is to break up the playoffs into two brackets," Hedrick said. "I mean, at this level, it doesn't do any good to have a 32-seed playing a one-seed. There's just nothing good about it.

"We're going to be in that lower bracket, and I think it's an opportunity for our kids to get more playing time and mostly get confidence. They're a good football team, but they've just got to believe in themselves and play with confidence. And when they do that, they're hard to beat."

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