Family Over Everything
NWPR Guest Columnist; Parker Edwards - Visit Parker
Summer workouts, pre season camps, seemingly endless two a days and above all, disappointment. This is what fuels West Linn’s dominant and dangerous football team in their 2016 season. A program surrounded by daunting and lofty expectations, this senior led lineup has been put under the pressure cooker by both fans and sportswriters from across the state. Of course there are hurdles that lay in the way of a state championship, however players such as Jake Meisen, senior receiver, are determined to finish out strong.
“Our motivation comes from losing to Jesuit 21-14 with 2 minutes left in the game after having a lead… it’s really hard to describe that feeling. You work in the off-season until spring and then come together and work for months through December,” Meisen said. “To come up short of our goal just made me and our team want to throw up. Luckily the seniors this year have one more shot and we are not going to waste it. We’ve prepared in the off-season and through the summer, and we will give it everything we have, it’s our last chance.” Surrounded by talented players, Meisen and the Lions have played, and gone 13-0 (7-0 Three Rivers League), while facing a tough schedule during the regular season, and throughout this year’s playoffs.
Starting out with a win against Oregon City (55-27), in the 96th annual Battle of the Bridge, their momentum carried them down to South Medford, a game which finished 42-21 in their second win on the season. Rattling off victories against Sherwood (48-14), Tualatin (50-7), and Newberg (47-19) seemed effortless until their week six matchup with the Tigard Tigers. Senior defensive end Jake Porter claims that their game against Tigard was one of their toughest on the season.
“Losing Elijah Molden and Hunter Lampson on our first couple drives made that game especially difficult,” Porter said. “Our playbook was focused around Molden, as it was raining so we couldn’t throw the ball as well as we usually do. Lampson going out made me have to play on the offensive line, which took out some big packages where I play tight end. They played us hard and it was a good test for us as a team.”
Following the 21-14 grind-it-out win, West Linn moved on to 6-0 for the first time under Coach Miller. Eventually through crushing wins and hard fought victories, they find themselves playing in late November. Win after win has led this year’s Lions family forward. They’ve worked towards a goal which has been set in place since before this season started; to win it all.
Their next matchup against Central Catholic is the first time these two programs will meet since two years ago in the quarterfinals of the 2014 OSAA 6A Playoffs; a game in which the Rams won 42-7. Since then, Coach Miller has led his team to a state championship game against Jesuit, a Three Rivers League title this season, not to mention their second state championship game appearance this Saturday. Undefeated, with a matchup facing Central Catholic, another challenge awaits for a Lions team hoping to make history.
A senior lead roster, 37 to be exact, is made up of both players who have been a part of the program since they were young, and new faces looking to be a part of something special. Senior receiver Ryan Schmid is an athlete who has played for the West Linn football program. After two years off Schmid decided to come back for his senior year.
“There are a ton of new players, but we did a good job of coming together as a family. Everyone no matter how long they have been a part of the team is a part of this football family,” Schmid said. “Every player and coach is respected, and we hold each other accountable during practices and games if we catch one another slacking off. There isn’t a negative vibe when players get on each other to focus, we just listen and respond.”
This year’s Lions football team has the largest amount of seniors in the history of the program. Just a short two years ago, West Linn had 8 seniors step out with their parents on senior night; this year it’s almost 5 times that.
Looking towards a state championship finale, West Linn is seeded at the top, proving week after week that they have been deserving of that top seeded ranking. This year’s OSAA Playoffs have been drama filled, Central Catholic playing a role in upsets throughout the preliminary rounds. With the weight of an entire school, and such a big target on their backs, West Linn is hoping to earn their first state title in program history. Since they were in 3rd grade, these athletes have dreamed of bringing home a state title to the city of West Linn. Countess drills have prepared them for a single moment, and they are just a game away.
“It feels like we are so close to making history. We just have to stay healthy,” Elijah Molden, senior defensive back, said.
An injury bug has hit the Lions throughout their outstanding season, however almost every player of the roster is ready to go for Saturday’s matchup against Central Catholic at Providence Park. No more limiting minutes for starting players, coaches and athletes have noted that staying focused is a challenge that each individual will have to face. There is no doubt that West Linn is in the driver's seat as they go down the home stretch. Keeping the intensity that has enveloped their program week after week, could propel them to the top.
In a season filled with broken records, a last minute win, and a multitude of standout plays, each player on West Linn’s football roster will be tested in their final outing. Anticipation has been building from people both in and surrounding the program. In 2016, football for the Lions has meant more than winning a state title; it’s about giving back to their coaches and their families for all the hard work that they have put in.
Behind each athlete there is a story, a story of determination and motivation. A tradition has been made at West Linn High School, a mentality of winning and success. There is a will to win around the football program, and around the school itself. It is up to these players and coaches, to use their motivation and preparation to finish what they started.