After building 28-6 lead, West Linn gives up 43 unanswered points

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - West Linn's Cam Schmitz makes a big hit during the Lions' season opener at home on Friday. Schmitz also led the Lions in receiving with five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. West Linn had a much better showing against Coeur d'Alene on Friday than it did last year. The Lions struggled last season against one of the premiere programs in Idaho and were thoroughly outplayed from start to finish.

This year, West Linn had the upper hand for the entirety of the first half, taking a three-touchdown lead at one point.

However, the tables turned quickly. After failing to deliver a potential knockout blow in the first two quarters, Coeur d'Alene rallied almost instantly, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter to tie the game. The Vikings would ultimately run off 43 unanswered points from the second through fourth quarters in a 49-35 victory.

But there were plenty of bright spots to take away from the game for the Lions. West Linn was terrific defensively in the first half, forcing a trio of early turnovers and keeping up with the Vikings' fast-paced offense.

West Linn's passing attack looked particularly lethal with Hayden Coppedge tossing four touchdown passes in the contest.

“I thought our defense looked very good and our offense was piecing it together. We just have to learn to play a full four quarters,” coach Mike Fanger said.

The Lions won the field position battle for the first half, playing on Coeur d'Alene's side of the 50 for all but a few minutes.

The Vikings fumbled on their opening drive and the ball was recovered by Cam Schmitz. The Lions couldn't capitalize but Gavin Andersen's punt pinned Coeur d'Alene at the 1-yard line.

One play later, Ryan Anderson picked off a bobbled pass, setting up the Lions at the 10-yard line and, on the next play from scrimmage, Louie Germain punched in the Lions' first touchdown of the season.

West Linn continued to lock down the Vikings' defense and another big punt from Andersen would lead to the Vikings' third turnover of the quarter, this time an interception by Cody Coppedge.

Two plays later, Hayden Coppedge would connect with his younger brother for a 32-yard touchdown strike on the last play of the first quarter.

Coeur d'Alene snapped out of its funk on the ensuing kickoff when Addison Johnson took it 90 yards for a score.

West Linn rallied quickly though when a first-down catch by Germain and a roughing the passer penalty set up a 42-yard touchdown pass from Coppedge to Vogt.

West Linn had success through the air all night but struggled to establish a consistent running game.

“They're a very good penetrating team, and they stack the box. I was disappointed with our protection at times,” Fanger said.

After another defensive stop, the Lions started marching again and when Coppedge hit Schmitz from 26 yards out, West Linn built a 28-6 advantage.

West Linn forced two more stops but, in the final minutes of the half, a bad snap gave Coeur d'Alene great field position which they quickly took advantage of and scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 28-14 at the half.

Coeur d'Alene quickly seized momentum to open the third quarter. On just the second play of the half, Johnson ran a slant pattern and took the play 65 yards for a quick strike.

On West Linn's next possession, a sack and another bad snap stopped the drive and gave the Vikings the ball in the Lions' territory.

Four plays later, the Vikings scored again and, in less than four minutes, the Vikings tied the game.

West Linn was backed up again on its next drive but nearly converted a third-and-31 on a 30-yard reception by Schmitz.

Then, on fourth-and-one, the team's second bad snap of the drive gave the ball back to Coeur d'Alene.

The Vikings would take their first lead of the game as the wheels started to come off for West Linn. The Lions then committed their only turnover of the game. In the closing seconds of the third quarter, the Vikings scored again to go up 42-28.

West Linn would stay in contention until Coeur d'Alene capped its run late in the fourth quarter with another score.

“It's all fixable stuff right now,” Fanger said.

The Lions mounted one more drive, getting a 29-yard touchdown catch from Ty Cleland in the final two minutes.

West Linn will travel to Grants Pass on Friday.

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