Under the lights of West Linn Stadium last Thursday night, the biggest rivalry this side of the Mississippi resulted in a long-awaited win for the Oregon City Pioneers. The victory ended a decade long losing streak against their nemesis, the West Linn Lions, with a final score of 35-29.
Pioneer Head Coach Kevin Strasser was fully aware of the historic significance of the game. “I told [the players] they had a chance to make history. For nine straight years their cousins—their uncles—have all played in this game and lost.”
The Pioneers wasted no time racking up points against their rival, West Linn. Newly appointed quarterback, junior Jon Hall, threw a 68-yard pass downfield to fellow junior Nick Martin, to give the Pioneers an early 7-0 lead, with 11 minutes to go in the first quarter. The Lions fired back with a goal line rushing ouchdown to tie the game, 7-7, at the nine minute mark in the first quarter.
To round out the opening quarter, Hall connected on a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior Justin Cornejo, giving the Pioneers a 14-7 edge over the Lions. Following the score, the Lions bobbled their kick return and landed themselves on their own 5-yard line. The Lions then forced a drive all the way downfield, only to fumble on a hard hit by Oregon City senior Dillon Riley at the goal line. Pinned in their own end zone, the Pioneers gave up a safety ending the first quarter, 14-9, in favor of the Pioneers.
After a very productive first quarter, the Pioneers picked up where they left off, adding seven more points to the board on a touchdown pass by Hall to speedy receiver Cornejo, with 8:46 left in the second quarter.
Adding to the second quarter score, star running back senior Mitch Thompson found the end zone on a 17-yard rushing touchdown, with 4:51 remaining before halftime. As the first half came to an end, the Lions added a score on a 1-yard run, making the score 28-15, after a failed 2-point conversion attempt by the Lions.
Through the second half of play, both teams focused on tightening their defenses. The Pioneers’ only second half score came on a 21-yard run by Thompson, who later in the fourth quarter was carted off the field with what appeared to be an ankle injury. The Lions made a run and tried to keep the score close by adding two touchdowns between the third and fourth quarters, but ultimately fell to the Pioneers, 35-29.
Quarterback Hall said after his first win as a Pioneer, “This team may be up and down sometimes, but we have the potential and talent to be a top-tier team if people buy into what we are doing.”