If you have dreamed about something and worked for it for just about your whole life, the feeling of achieving it is surreal. For many of us on the team, bringing the first ever state title to the city of West Linn is something that we have all been thinking about since third and fourth grade. All of the grueling hours of workouts, film study, and technical work finally paid off. We knew we had to play nearly perfect to come out with a win, and nearly perfect is how we played.
The bus ride was intense, but not in a bad way. Everyone knew what we had to do that day. After we went through the fans sending us off and after the police escort left, we were all focus. For many of us, the state championship game loss last year to Jesuit was still fresh in our minds and had been a painful but necessary reminder to us not just throughout the past week but the whole season too. And just to add to our motivation heading into the game, many of the seniors and some juniors who had been on the varsity team as freshman and sophomores still remembered what happened the last time we played Central Catholic. It was a demoralizing 42-7 loss. With all of this in mind, we had something to prove as a team and there was going to be nothing that would stop us on that day.
After getting off of the bus, we walked down into the stadium and past the field to get into the locker room. Walking past the field gave me kind of a sad feeling because I knew that no matter what, this would be my last time ever playing high school football. The more that I walked towards the locker room, the more that this feeling hit me. Even though it wasn’t a good thing to experience, I knew that I had to put it in the back of my mind because I had to put all of my focus on the much more important task of winning a state title.
I walked out of the tunnel and ran over to the middle of our half of the field. For a second, I just stood still. Looking around and taking it all in was incredible. The stadium around us, the city buildings above the roof, the fans already starting to pack the stadium. All of it was something that I suddenly appreciated a little more. After taking it all in, I went and started warming up.
We had a different vibe during our pre-game that day. It was a good vibe. With so many returning starters from last year, we had been here before. Of course we were a little nervous, but we weren’t scared. We just wanted to start playing. As a team, all of us knew we could beat our opponent and that as long as we took care of business and played to our full potential then we would win this game.
In the locker room before we did our final walkout, everyone was ready. Players like Tim Tawa and Mitchell Johnson were going around high-fiving other players, and we were all pumping each other up. Coach Miller had a simple message to us before we ran out there. Enjoy every second of the day. Take it all in and play for each other. He had our back and we had his. After all of the coaches pre-game speeches, we gathered in the tunnel and did one last walk-out. While sprinting out onto the field, there was only two thoughts going through my mind. The first, that would be my last time ever doing this as a Lion, and the other was that we had to win.
When they called the captains, I walked over to midfield and looked at the three other guys that I had the privilege to do the coin toss with. We all gave each other high-fives and then for the last time linked arms to walkout to midfield. After running back from the coin toss, I saw the whole crowd cheering and the team getting psyched up. At this point I only one thought going through my mind, and it was something that I knew for sure. We were ready.
Central Catholic kicked the ball off to start the game, and our offense got the ball first. On just the third play of the game., Elijah Molden took a counter play 70 yards for a touchdown. From that point on, our team never looked back. Sprinting down the field to go celebrate with a teammate who just scored is always an incredible feeling, but this one was just a little bit better than the others. That play set the tempo for the rest of the game. It showed that we were the dominant team and that we weren’t going to miss another perfect opportunity to take the state title home.
One of the best parts about that game was that even though our offense played incredibly, our defense played even better. Central Catholic’s only touchdown of the game coming off of a perfectly defended pass by Zach Shelton, which was really the only blemish on an otherwise perfect game.
At halftime, we had our work cut out for us. With a 28-0 lead, all we had to do was finish. That’s all we had to do. Everyone was walking around, talking, and getting ready to go out and fight for one more half. We were only two quarters away from achieving a dream that we have all had since we were in third and fourth grade. Running out of the locker room to start the second half, we were just as excited and ready as we were when we started the game.
The last two quarters weren’t much different than the first two. With the exception of the one lucky touchdown that was let up, both sides of the ball picked up right where they left off and fired on all cylinders throughout the rest of the game. Once the fourth quarter came around, all of the starters in the huddle knew that the first series would be our last.
While I was on the field for our last full offensive possession, I took a second to look around at the atmosphere around me. I looked at the field, I looked at the ball. I looked at the guys in the huddle with me. I looked at the other team, I looked at the scoreboard. I looked at myself and our coaches. But the last thing that I really looked at and appreciated was the crowd and stadium around us. Our side of the stadium was packed. It’s a really special feeling to look over and know that you have a whole town of people there to support you. When the drive ended with a touchdown, it just felt right. Walking off of the field I knew that would I only had one more play as a West Linn Lion, and I was going to make sure that I remembered it.
Our defense forced a turnover on the first defensive play after our touchdown and our starting offense went onto the field for the last time. Tim called the play and we broke the huddle and went up to the line of scrimmage. We snapped the ball and ran the play, and the whistle blew when the play was over, I looked to my left and right. All of the seniors linked arms and walked off the field together for one final time. We got to the sideline and everyone started to get emotional. All of the coaches and players were giving each other hugs, the whole crowd was into it too. The players dumped our cooler full of water on Coach Miller and he yelled up to the crowd. About a minute later, the final buzzer sounded and the whistle blew signaling the end of the game.
All of us rushed the field. The crowd went crazy. This was the moment that it hit me. We won. We won the state championship. Not just that, but it was the first in the history of our town. We accomplished something that no other West Linn team had ever done before. After shaking hands, we all ran to the end zone and created a huge dog pile. Everyone was smiling, crying, hugging and celebrating. The feeling was surreal. To look around and know that we had finally done it after all of the countless hours of lifting, running, working out, and practice is something that I really can’t put words to.
When they gave us our medals and the trophy, we all went crazy. After group photos, we rushed over to celebrate with our friends and family waiting for us. As I gave hugs to my parents, my girlfriend, my family members, and my friends, there was only one singular thought running through my head. It was that we did it.
This championship to us meant more than just getting rings. It meant doing something that no other team in the history of West Linn High School has ever done. We had been so close the year before and we knew it was our time now. It also meant giving back to our families and the community. Our families who have provided us with everything we could possibly need to achieve our goals, and the community who was behind us every single step of the way. None of this would have been possible without the support everyone gave us, so for that, we all thank everyone who was rooting for us all season long.
This title was for you West Linn. Enjoy it just as much as we do because we couldn’t have done it without your support.