TUALATIN – West Linn's football team has the highest goals this season, but before the Lions can even think about chasing a 6A title, they had one giant score to settle Friday night.
Still smarting from two decisive losses to Tualatin last season – one that cost them an outright league title, and another in the state semifinals – the second-ranked Lions drew extra satisfaction from a 42-30 road win over the fourth-ranked Timberwolves in a Three Rivers League showdown.
Washington State-bound quarterback Sam Leavitt completed 15 of 24 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns, two to junior Wiley Donnerberg, and senior Koffi Kouame rushed for 150 yards and one score on 16 carries as the Lions (5-1, 2-0) handed Tualatin (5-1, 1-1) its first loss of the season.
“It feels good to come out and put a score up like we did today on a team that beat us twice last year,” Donnerberg said. “This has been circled since last year. We couldn't be more excited. I don't even know who we're playing next week, but we're moving on.”
Added West Linn senior receiver Mark Hamper: “It's kind of more of a relief, you know, like we finally beat Tualatin.”
The game turned into shootout as Tualatin racked up 521 yards and West Linn gained 508. But the Lions never trailed, responding with touchdowns both times the Timberwolves pulled to within a single score in the second half.
“They couldn't stop us,” Donnerberg said. “We have so many different weapons on our offense, that if they try to stop one of us, there's two or three or four more that can move the ball.”
The Lions – coming off comfortable wins over No. 5 Jesuit, Lake Stevens (Wash.) and Lake Oswego – had the upper hand throughout but couldn't run away from the Timberwolves..
“It's Tualatin, we weren't expecting a game like that,” Hamper said. “We were expecting a dogfight.”
The Timberwolves fought an uphill battle all game. It marked the first time all season that they didn't score on their first possession and the first time they have trailed. But they kept coming after the Lions.
“I thought our response to adversity was great,” Tualatin coach Dominic Ferraro said. “We never backed down. We missed some tackles, we had some turnovers, just those kind of things that I know we can clean up, and maybe the outcome would be different than it was.”
Tualatin had four turnovers, including two inside West Linn's 40-yard line in the first half, an interception that set up the Lions' final touchdown early in the fourth quarter and an interception in the end zone after reaching West Linn's 13-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
“It's an absolute tough loss, but we just made too many mistakes,” Tualatin senior tight end and defensive lineman Richie Anderson said. “They're a great team, but overall we had way more mistakes than they did. There are some things we could've done better. We were right there.”
West Linn led 21-17 at half as Leavitt threw touchdown passes of 25 yards to junior Gus Donnerberg and 53 yards to Wiley Donnerberg and senior Ben Winjum scored on a one-yard run.
The Donnerberg twins showed off their run-after-catch ability.
“We got tackled a lot of times last week when we shouldn't have,” Wiley Donnerberg said. “We were working on that this week, and we definitely stepped it up today.”
Tualatin answered West Linn's first two touchdowns with a two-yard run by senior Luke Ash and a 39-yard pass from senior Jack Wagner and closed the first half with a 37-yard field goal from sophomore Calvin Evans.
West Linn made it 28-17 on the first play of the second half when Kouame bolted untouched through the middle of the Tualatin defense for a 52-yard touchdown run.
Ash scored on a six-yard run to close within 28-23, but Hamper caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Leavitt to push the lead back to 35-23 midway through the third quarter.
Wagner's a two-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 35-30 late in the third quarter, and the Timberwolves had a chance to take the lead after their defense held on downs at their own 37-yard line.
But on first down at the West Linn 49, Hamper broke through the line and batted a pass that was intercepted by Gus Donnerberg. Leavitt threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Wiley Donnerberg to restore the lead to 42-30 with 10:39 left in the game.
“There were a couple big plays that made the difference,” Gus Donnerberg said.
West Linn's vast arsenal of playmakers kept the Tualatin defense off balance.
“Any play can be a touchdown,” Anderson said of the Lions. “Sam, Mark, literally every single person on the field can do something great.”
Wiley Donnerberg finished with three catches for 94 yards and two scores. Gus Donnerberg had five catches for 82 yards and one touchdown and Hamper added five catches for 63 yards and one score.
Ash rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries for Tualatin. The Idaho-bound Wagner completed 19 of 39 passes for 313 yards and one score and threw three interceptions, the others by Wiley Donnerberg and senior Jackson Shelstad.
“I thought he did a great job considering the pressure he was under,” Ferraro said of Wagner. “They were mixing it up. West Linn did a really good job of changing the pressures, and where they were coming from.”
Riding a wave of momentum, West Linn can take sole possession of first place next week when it plays host to unbeaten and seventh-ranked Tigard (6-0., 2-0).
“We feel good, but we're never satisfied,” Hamper said. “We're going to keep getting better as a team and keep dominating people.”