The Pioneers rally around Jon Hall to drop their cross-river rivals for the first time since 2002

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon City quarterback Jon Hall (5) played a major role last week, as the Pioneers defeated their cross-town rivals for the first time since 2002. Oregon City also won at the jayvee and freshmen levels.The Oregon City Pioneers ended a long football victory drought over their cross-river rivals last Thursday, spoiling the West Linn Lions’ homecoming with a 35-29 win at West Linn.

It’s the first time an Oregon City High School varsity football team has beaten West Linn since 2002, when the Pioneers prevailed 20-14.

The series between the two schools dates back to 1921, and it is heralded as the oldest uninterrupted high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi.

Oregon City now holds a 49-42-1 edge in the series, but West Linn had a series-record nine consecutive wins heading into last Thursday’s game. Oregon City had come close last year, losing when West Linn pulled out a 28-27 win, scoring on a last-minute touchdown and PAT kick.

“To me this game was just redemption,” said Oregon City kicker and senior co-captain Daniel Slack, who had missed a PAT kick in last year’s game. “I feel like I lost the game last year. It feels great to beat our rival — after nine years.”

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Oregon City senior co-captain Austin Phanouvong. “I’m speechless.”

Phanouvong said the key to the victory was: “Our quarterback. He stepped up big-time. He threw three touchdown passes....

“And our defensive secondary. They shut down their passing game at key moments. And they played really hard.”

Oregon City quarterback Jon Hall did play a pivotal role. The 6-0, 205-pound junior had seen only limited action until a week before last Thursday’s game, when he was asked to step in for suspended quarterback Jacob Tipton.

Hall looked like a veteran in last Thursday’s game, completing 12-of-18 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns, without throwing a single interception. He was responsible for Oregon City’s first three touchdowns, throwing on-the-money passes of 32-, 37- and 68 yards to help stake the Pioneers to a 28-15 halftime advantage.

Hall’s poised play in the first half and the play of Oregon City’s defensive secondary throughout the game did play pivotal roles in the Pioneer win. Hall was 8-of-9 passing for 199 yards in the first half.

Oregon City defenders forced four turnovers, while the Pioneers’ lone turnover was a punt snap that went out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Oregon City senior defensive backs Brandon Espy and Dillon Riley headed up the defensive effort. Espy had a career night, with 10 solo tackles, three assists and two pass interceptions. His interception of a tipped pass early in the fourth quarter gained the Pioneers good field position, setting up what would prove to be the winning touchdown.

Riley covered two West Linn fumbles, one at the Oregon City 2-yard line that kept the Lions out of the end zone, and the second on a fumbled punt as the Lions — trailing 35-22 — attempted to rally in the fourth quarter.

The Pioneers dominated the play in the first half, scoring on four of their first five possessions.

The Pioneers scored on their second play from scrimmage, when Hall found junior wide receiver Nick Martin open 40 yards down field and Martin did the rest on a 68-yard touchdown pass play. Slack converted on his first of five successful PAT kicks, and the Pioneers found themselves owning a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

The fired up Lions were quick to answer, scoring on their fourth play from scrimmage. West Linn veteran quarterback Hayden Coppedge completed two long passes, Lion junior running back Louie Germain busted loose for a 20-yard run, and Germain skipped in from the one for a 7-7 tie.

Dillon Riley returned the ensuing kickoff 20 yards to the Oregon City 40, and the Pioneers went back to work. Hall completed three passes in a six-play drive, connecting with Justin Cornejo from 32 yards out, to make it a 14-7 game.

It appeared that the Lions were going to answer, as they marched 91 yards in nine plays to the Pioneer 1. But Espy then saved the day, pouncing on a fumble at the 2 to keep the Lions out of the end zone.

Four plays later, West Linn got two points for a safety when a punt snap sailed out of the back of the end zone. But it was better than giving up a touchdown.

The next time the Pioneers got their hands on the ball, Hall orchestrated an eight-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. Hall found Cornejo wide open in the middle of the end zone from 37 yards out, and the Pioneer lead was 21-9.

Following a West Linn punt, the Pioneers gained possession at their own 43. Five plays later, Pioneer senior running back Mitchell Thompson rambled 16 yards to the end zone, upping Oregon City’s lead to 28-9 with 4:51 remaining in the first half.

West Linn closed the gap to 28-15 3-1/2 minutes later, capping off a penalty-aided drive with a one-yard touchdown dash by Germain.

The Lions threatened again as time ran out of the first-half clock. But Espy went up in a crowd on a Hail Mary pass and came up with the ball at the Oregon City 10 as time expired.

The second half was more of a defensive battle by both teams.

The Lions got back in the game late in the third period, when Coppedge capped off a six-play, 66-yard drive with a 12-yard scoring strike to senior running back Dalton Tuor. The on-target PAT kick made it a six-point game, with Oregon City leading 28-22.

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon City defensive back Brandon Espy (6) breaks up a pass thrown to West Linn receiver Braden Vogt (24) in last weeks game at West Linn.Espy’s interception of a tipped pass near the midfield stripe set up Oregon City’s final score. Thompson dashed 21 yards for the touchdown, making it 35-22 Oregon City with a minute elapsed on the fourth-quarter clock.

The rest of the final period was a defensive battle, with neither team threatening, until a fourth-down gamble by West Linn handed the ball to the Pioneers on downs at the West Linn 45.

Six plays later, Thompson raced 17 yards to the end zone, only to have the play called back by a holding penalty.

Thompson was hurt on the play (high ankle sprain) and play was stopped for 10 minutes while the Pioneer star running back was attended to.

When play resumed, with 1:44 remaining in the game, the Lions battled with a newfound intensity. They took over on downs at their own 23 and eight plays later, West Linn senior Colin Davis hauled in a one-yard pass from Coppedge for the score. Zach Nelson’s PAT kick rang true, and the Lions were within a touchdown, trailing 35-29 with 36 seconds remaining.

Oregon City senior Jackson Peters fell on the ball on an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and the Pioneers wound out the clock for the hard fought victory.

The Lions finished with a 421- to 382-yard edge in total offense. Coppedge completed 29-of-49 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Jarrod Howard had 13 receptions for 175 yards.

Thompson led the Pioneer ground attack, with 29 carries for 144 yards. It was only the second time this season that Thompson had been held to under 200 yards. Through seven games, the 5-8, 170-pound running back has 194 carries for 1,560 yards and 17 touchdowns.

“We played below average on offense,” Howard said. “Our run defense was really good, but our pass defense didn’t cut it.”

Oregon City coach Kevin Strasser commented: “Jon Hall was fantastic.... He commanded the huddle and helped get a big win.”

“Jon stepped up to the plate and I’m extremely proud of him,” Oregon City co-captain Michael McCoy said.

Take away Thompson’s rushing yardage in the West Linn game and the Pioneers had a negative 16 yards in rushing offense. It was uncertain as to whether Thompson would be able to return to the turf for this week’s game with Clackamas.

“Mitch Thompson suffered a high ankle sprain and will be evaluated day-to-day,” Strasser said.

“We hope we have him back,” Phanouvong said. “But if he can’t come back, we’ve got other guys that can run the football. Jordan Ferguson runs real hard. Austin Lundmark is back eligible and he’s played fullback before. And we’ve got a freshman, Conner Mitchell, who could step up.”

Phanouvong said that defense will be pivotal in this Friday’s game with the Cavaliers.

“You’ve got to stop their offense [to beat Clackamas],” he said. “They put up 50-something against West Linn [a 56-49 Clackamas victory].”

Clackamas and Oregon City both enter this Friday’s game with 2-1 records in the Three Rivers League and overall records of 4-3.

The Pioneers have league wins over West Linn and Lakeridge (59-23) and a 42-20 loss to Canby. The Cavaliers have league wins over West Linn and Lakeridge (45-21), and last week they lost at fourth-ranked Lake Oswego 55-21.

Oregon City and Clackamas are ranked 18th and 21st respectively in the OSAA rankings.

Cavs come up short

at Lake Oswego

The Clackamas Cavaliers met their match last Thursday at Lake Oswego. The Lakers ran up a 35-0 lead before Clackamas found the end zone late in the first half. Lake Oswego was up 42-7 at halftime.

The Cavaliers had a tough time slowing the Lakers, who generated 604 yards in offense on the night.

Lake Oswego 5-11, 170-pound sophomore quarterback Justen Ruppe completed 10-of-12 passes for 239 yards, with scoring strikes of 8-, 59- and 80 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Conner Griffin had four catches for 173 yards and three touchdowns.

J.B. Holmes, a 5-11, 185-pound junior, led a stable of Laker running backs, picking up 154 yards and two touchdowns in 14 trips with the pigskin.

Daniel Dennis, a 5-8, 140-pound senior, rushed three times for 84 yards and a touchdown; Max Morton added 79 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Clackamas scored touchdowns on a 13-yard pass from Doonie Johnson to Erick Douglas III in the second quarter, on a 10-yard run by Dan Sherrell in the third quarter, and on a 19-yard pass to Douglas III in the final period.

Johnson was 12-of-16 passing, for 146 yards and the two touchdowns; Sherrell rushed 20 times for 80 yards.

With the win, the defending state champion Lakers (7-0, 3-0) remained unbeaten on the season.

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