WEST LINN – Red-hot West Linn turned a first-place showdown into its own showcase Friday night.
The second-ranked Lions raced to a four-touchdown lead in the first nine minutes and went on to hammer No. 6 Tigard 63-14 to take sole possession of first place in 6A Three Rivers League football.
Senior quarterback Sam Leavitt completed 15 of 22 passes for 347 yards and six touchdowns, four to senior Mark Hamper, who had six catches for 166 yards. For the third time in four weeks, the Lions (6-1, 3-0) won with a running clock in the second half, this time against the previously undefeated Tigers (6-1, 2-1).
“This is what we expect,” Hamper said. “We put in the work each week at practice, and it leads to this. So we know where this is coming from and we know what we've got to do in order for this to keep happening.”
The Lions have taken to the gospel of first-year coach Jon Eagle, who guided Camas to Washington big-school state titles in 2016 and 2019.
“Eagle's been telling us for so long that we were able to do this to teams, that we can put up 40 points in the first half,” senior linebacker and running back Earl Ingle said. “It's really coming together because we can see it now. We actually saw it play out tonight.”
The team's confidence is soaring.
“I think we're just an unstoppable team,” said senior defensive end and tight end Jake Holmes, who had one of the team's four sacks Friday. “I think we have every piece you need to be a state championship team. As long as we keep coming to practice every day with intensity and ready to work, then I don't think we can be stopped. Right now we look amazing.”
The Washington State-bound Leavitt, a transfer from Westview, seems to be getting more comfortable as the season progresses. He has thrown for 1,878 yards and 21 touchdowns with four interceptions, including one Friday.
“It's obviously difficult coming into a new offense, coming in Week 1, but Eagle's been making it awesome, teaching me exactly what reads I need to do in what situations,” Leavitt said. “I've just got to get the ball to my playmakers, honestly.”
That includes the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Hamper, who on Friday caught scoring passes of 65, 43 and 3 yards in the first half and 30 yards to start the third quarter. He bolstered his numbers after entering the game leading 6A in receiving yards (689) and touchdown catches (nine).
“He has a certain understanding of space. It's truly incredible,” Leavitt said. “He understands when to sit certain routes, leverages, and he understands coverages. It's truly crazy. Lots of props to him.”
Hamper repeatedly left the Tigers in his wake with his run-after-catch ability.
“He's a guy that moves extremely well,” Tigard coach John Kemper said. “He makes people miss, and when you leave your feet tackling a guy that size and speed, it's going to make you look a little foolish.”
On the game's first play, West Linn junior Gus Donnerberg turned a 10-yard pass from Leavitt into a 71-yard score. Leavitt scored on an eight-yard run, then threw scoring passes of 65 yards to Hamper and nine yards to junior Wiley Donnerberg to make it 28-0 with 3:30 left in the first quarter.
At that point, Leavitt had thrown for 192 yards. The Lions finished the first half with 419 total yards.
“It's just poetry. It's something special,” Leavitt said of the team's offensive rhythm.
Tigard got off the deck to score two touchdowns – a one-yard run by senior Konner Grant and a five-yard halfback pass from Grant to junior Jake Feist – to close within 28-14.
But West Linn responded with 21 consecutive points to close out the half as senior Koffi Kouame ran for a five-yard touchdown and Hamper and Leavitt connected for scores of 43 and 3 yards. After the latter, Leavitt threw a two-point conversion pass to Hamper with 21 seconds left in the half to extend the lead to 35 points and ensure a running clock after intermission.
It was a difficult defeat for Tigard, which faced its first opponent currently ranked in the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll. What can the Tigers take from the game?
“The biggest thing is be humbled a little bit,” Kemper said. “I don't know if being 6-0 we were wound a little too tight. It's hard to say right now. We've got to go back to the drawing board and see how we respond.”
West Linn finished with a 539-229 edge in total yards. The Lions held Grant, who entered with 816 rushing yards, to 23 yards on 13 carries.
Since losing to No. 1 Sheldon 35-31 at home, West Linn has won five in a row against quality teams.
“Looking back on it, I think that loss was the best thing that could have ever happened to this team,” Hamper said. “Just to get our ego in check, and realize that there are other teams that can play with us if we don't play our best game.”
The Lions can wrap up the outright league title with road wins over Lakeridge and Oregon City in their final two games. Then it's on to the playoffs, where perhaps they will get another crack at Sheldon.
“I think our time will come when we play them again,” Ingle said. “Looking forward to it. But we've got to take it one game at a time.”