Vance: Taking a look back at West Linn's fabulous fall
Here, near the end of the 2018 fall season and with just one West Linn High School sports team standing — the Lion football team — it is an opportune time to reflect, to consider all that's happened over the previous 78 days.
And as I look back on that period, from the first football game of the 2018 season through today, I can tell you this much — West Linn's athletic teams had a heck of a fall.
Indeed, the Lions proved themselves to be among the state's best teams in almost every sport where they fielded a team.
Let's take a look.
• The West Linn boys cross country team went 5-1 in the Three Rivers League regular season to share a piece of the TRL crown, then ran to third place at the TRL district meet and earned a berth to the Class 6A state meet.
At state, senior Avery Cook — one of the team's top three runners — was hampered by sickness, but the Lions still managed to place eighth as a team in the 21-team field. Seniors Kenney McElroy, John Wetzsteon and Cook led the way there, with McElroy 14th, Wetzsteon 20th and Cook 56th.
• The Lion girls cross country team was no slouch this fall either. While West Linn went just 3-4 in the regular season, three of those losses came in the team's TRL finale when they rested their varsity runners. The Lions then came back to place third at district and win a berth to state.
Like their male counterparts, the West Linn girls had to deal with challenges at state — both injury and illness — but still placed 14th in the season's biggest race, led there by junior Moya Moses in 44th and junior Alyssa Rowe in 66th.
• The West Linn boys soccer team made the 2018 fall season a keeper, too, battling to a share of the Three Rivers League title, an 11-3-3 overall record and the sixth seed to the state playoffs. And the Lions made their presence felt in the second season as well, beating McKay and Lake Oswego in their first two playoff games, then pushing third-seeded David Douglas to the very end in a tough 2-1 quarterfinal loss.
• The West Linn girls soccer team was even better, going unbeaten in the regular season, winning the Three Rivers League at 7-0-0 (allowing just one goal in league play) and rolling into the state playoffs as the second-seeded Class 6A girls team.
In the playoffs, the Lions ripped Centennial 7-0, beat St. Mary's 2-1, shut out Barlow 2-0 in the quarterfinals and matched up against Clackamas in their semifinal. West Linn was dominant against the Cavaliers throughout regulation, but failed to score and saw the contest go into overtime. There, with four minutes remaining in the second half of OT, the Lions were whistled for a foul, Clackamas was awarded a penalty kick, converted it and won a spot in the state championship game, ending the Lions' season with a 16-1-1 overall record.
• The West Linn volleyball team was stellar, too, winning the Three Rivers League for the third straight time, earning its second straight berth to the Class 6A state tournament and finishing third in the state for a second straight season.
• That leaves the West Linn football team. The Lions have ridden the roller coaster for much of the 2018 season, interspersing highs (a 47-41 thriller over Central Catholic, a 45-20 win over Tualatin that gave the Wolves their first loss, and two victories against talented Lakeridge) with lows (dropping a key 41-28 decision at Lake Oswego and making five turnovers in a 23-21 loss to Tigard) on what seemed to be a week-to-week basis.
But now, the Lions appear to be playing their best football of the season, eliminating the turnovers that have fueled their low moments, beating their last three opponents by a margin of 171-69 and setting up their biggest game of the year — Friday's 7 p.m. contest at third-ranked Sheldon in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
With a win there, the West Linn football team would advance to the semifinals to face the winner of the Clackamas-Liberty contest and a further shot at greatness.