Lions go to 2-0 on the gridiron, Cavs next
Now comes the real test. Sure, the West Linn football team is pleased with its 2-0 start as the Lions have been solid in wins over Benson and, most recently, David Douglas 21-19, but West Linn was favored in both of those games and neither had playoff implications.
This Friday, the Lions' mettle will truly be tested against perennial Three Rivers League powerhouse Clackamas. The Cavaliers were some people's preseason darkhorse pick to contend for a state championship this season and have looked solid in two games, despite a recent overtime loss to Barlow.
West Linn will need to continue its strong play to keep the large and very athletic team in check and pick up what would be an enormous win for the school.
'They present a lot of problems. They run a spread offense and throw the ball all over the field and their defense is very aggressive,' coach Ron Chappell said.
The Lions were tested more thoroughly by David Douglas than they were by Benson. The Scotsmen feature one of the most talented players in the state in quarterback Greg Carradine and he gave them fits all night.
Carradine rushed for an obscene 252 yards, scored all three of his team's touchdowns and threw for 47 more yards.
But West Linn was able to eliminate virtually all of David Douglas' other options on offense and, in the end, the Scotsmen's one-man show wasn't enough to earn the team a victory.
It was a slow first half as both offenses struggled to adjust to the wet and slippery conditions.
'It dumped on us before the game and we're fortunate enough to play on carpet most of the time. We're not used to wet, slick grass. But the kids handled it very well,' Chappell said.
The Lions controlled their mistakes virtually all night long, only yielding one late interception, which became just the team's first turnover in eight quarters.
Meanwhile, West Linn was opportunistic on defense for the second game in a row. The defense forced four turnovers including a fourth quarter interception that Justin Monahan ran back for what turned out to be the deciding touchdown.
Monahan now has four interceptions in two games.
The Lions got on the board first. After nearly 21 minutes of scoreless play, West Linn capitalized on a fumble recovery as Mychal Zito hit Justin Williams for an eight-yard score.
But David Douglas came back quickly as Carradine moved them down the field and scored from six yards out with less than a minute to play in the half.
'That kid is an incredible athlete. He's going to be playing Divison I football somewhere. I actually think we did a decent job containing him and I know that sounds weird. Most of his yards were on a few big plays and we shut down the rest of their offense,' Chappell said.
The third quarter started out similarly to the first. West Linn continued to give up chunks of yardage to Carradine but made up for it by forcing turnovers and coming up with stops when it needed to.
'The big difference has been the fact that we're way ahead of our opponents in turnovers. We're taking care of the ball and forcing teams to make mistakes,' Chappell said.
Late in the third quarter, the Lions mounted another drive that began in David Douglas' territory. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Zito scrambled into the end zone from 12 yards out to recapture the lead.
On David Douglas' next drive, Carradine dropped back to pass and was picked off for the second time by Monahan who sprinted into the end zone giving the Lions a comfortable two-score lead. Robert Truax kicked his third extra point of the night and each one proved to be crucial.
The Scotsmen weren't finished. Less than three minutes later, Carradine successfully moved his team down into scoring position and scored again, this time from 22 yards out but the extra point attempt was botched, leaving the Lions with an eight-point lead.
West Linn appeared to have the game won minutes later when Monahan broke a 70-yard run into the end zone but the exciting play was called back by a penalty. The Lions' drive stalled after that, giving David Douglas an opportunity to mount a game-tying effort.
'We overcame some adversity. To get a win in our first road game of the season was nice,' Chappell said.
Again, it was the Greg Carradine show as he took his team on his shoulder one last time and scored on a 22-yard scramble from 22 yards out to make the score 21-19.
On the two-point conversion attempt, David Douglas ran the option which had been successful all night. The Lions refused to let Carradine beat them this time and swarmed the quarterback, forcing him to pitch the ball.
Josh Thurston then made a game-saving tackle inches short of the goal line and the Lions held on for the close victory.
For the game Zito completed seven of 15 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 21 more yards. Quinn was the team's leading rusher with 63 yards and Monahan had 52 yards receiving and 24 yards rushing on just two carries.
The Lions were out-gained by David Douglas 389-197, with 342 of the Scotsmen's yards coming on the ground. But the difference was turnovers and the Lions ability to come up with big plays when it mattered.
West Linn is now gearing up for Clackamas who will be without the services of their top wide receiver who broke his collarbone in the loss to Barlow.
But Chappell knows that the Cavaliers are still extremely dangerous.
'The kids are pumped up. We're 2-0 and it's a home game. I think they're ready to play,' Chappell said.