All of a sudden, the potential for West Linn's season has skyrocketed. It's not as if the Lions have been playing poorly this season, far from in fact, with a convincing win over Benson and a tough road victory over David Douglas.
And with Clackamas missing star receiver Ricky Cookman because of a broken collarbone, the Lions felt good about their chances at home against the Cavaliers. Still, few people outside of the West Linn faithful pegged the Lions to win last Friday's game.
So when the team rallied from a pair of 10-point deficits and came out on the right side of a 28-23 decision, the celebration on the field afterwards was more than warranted.
The win was huge for West Linn, because it was the first time since the Lions won the league title in 1999 that they had defeated Clackamas in football at the varsity level.
'This is the biggest win of our season,' said West Linn senior co-captain Zach White. 'And there's a lot more to come after this. This gets us on the road to go to the playoffs and to go deep in the playoffs….It's a huge win!'
'It's like a dream come true,' said co-captain Lane Locke. 'It's all because of the work we put in at practice. We've had some amazing practices - the best practices we've had since I've been here. We wanted to show that West Linn's in [the playoff chase] and we did that.'
The Lions rallied around running back Kyle Quinn and an aggressive second-half attack-dog defense on Cavs running back Brad Wagner for the emotional victory.
Quinn was a workhorse, rushing 30 times for 150 yards and scoring all four Lion touchdowns.
Wagner, the Cavaliers' top ground gainer, rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. But the senior was held to just 20 yards rushing after the halftime break.
'Our defense stepped it up [in the second half] and our offensive line made it happen for Kyle [Quinn],' said White.
Still, the Cavaliers battled until the end. Trailing 28-17 with 4:39 to play, they drove 86 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown that pulled them within 28-23.
However an onsides kick squirted out of bounds and the Lions sat on the ball until time ran out.
'It was a good battle,' said Locke. 'They played tough. It was a lot of fun.'
Clackamas controlled the play for much of the first half, and the Cavaliers were up 17-14 at halftime.
The Cavs scored on their first two possessions, with Kyle Salgado splitting the uprights on a 25-yard field goal and Wagner scoring a touchdown from the six, after Clackamas gained field position on a bad snap from center.
Quinn capped off a 65-yard, 16-play drive with a four-yard sprint to paydirt, and the Lions were within 10-7.
However, Clackamas wasted little time with an answer. Greg Inahara's kickoff return gained the Cavaliers the ball at midfield, and three plays later Wagner raced 30-yards to the end zone. Salgado's second on-target PAT kick made it 17-7 Clackamas with six minutes left in the half.
The Cavaliers were on the march again later in the second period when White leaped high for an interception at the Lion 47.
The Lions scored just three plays later, with quarterback Mychal Zito setting up the score with a 32-yard completion to Erik Koczian. Quinn took the ball in from the four, and the Lions had momentum and a newfound confidence as they headed into the locker room at halftime.
The Lions went ahead for the first time late in the third quarter. Quinn scored from six yards out on the ninth play of a 62-yard drive, putting the Lions up 21-17.
West Linn got the ball back a short time later, and Quinn followed with a backbreaking play that set up the eventual winning touchdown.
With his club faced with second-and-seven near the 50, Quinn rumbled down the field, breaking tackles left and right, until Cavalier defensive back Greg Inahara caught up with him and knocked the ball loose at the 10.
The fumble bounced forward towards the goal line and West Linn 225-pound lineman Sam Stevens pounced on it at the Clackamas one-yard line.
Two plays later, Quinn bullied his way up the middle. Robert Truax's fourth on-target PAT kick made it 28-17 with 10 minutes remaining, and the Lions could taste the victory.
Locke kept the momentum going West Linn's way when he collected a tipped pass for an interception just three plays later.
The Cavaliers answered with their 86-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. But time ran out before they could erase the entire 11-point deficit.
It was the third win in as many starts for the Lions (3-0, 1-0). It was the second straight loss for the Cavaliers (1-2, 0-1), who dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Barlow on Sept. 15.
The Lions play Lakeridge at the Lake Oswego district field.
'They're good,' Locke said of the Pacers. 'I can't wait to play them and show them what West Linn football is all about.'
Matthew Sherman contributed to this story.