Five West Linn players cap football careers at Les Schwab Bowl
The heat was hot, and the offenses were not, at Saturday's 2017 Les Schwab Bowl.
The South team managed the lone score of the first half, tacked on a field goal in the third period and held the North scoreless until just 1 minute, 15 seconds remained on the clock in the South's 10-7 win at Hillsboro Stadium.
While the North team — including five members of West Linn's 2016 state championship team — very much wanted to leave with a win, its Saturday shortcomings could not steal the luster from a very special week.
"I'm going to remember all the bonds I made, all the good times we had," said West Linn center Connor Maloney, who will play next year at Southern Oregon University. "I met a lot of really cool dudes this week; I'm definitely going to keep in contact with them."
"Definitely the poker nights were the most fun," said wide receiver Justin Altenhofen, a University of Idaho commit who finished with six catches for 42 yards. "We played a lot of poker, a lot of beach volleyball down at Pacific (University) so I had a good time meeting a lot of guys and a lot of guys I played against in high school."
"The week was pretty good," added wide receiver Jake Meisen, a Central Washington University commit who made three catches for 39 yards. "It was nice to gel with other players you usually play against and compete against."
Joining Maloney, Altenhofen and Meisen on the North side were: defensive end Jake Porter (he's headed to Portland State); linebacker Mitch Johnson (he'll play next year at Eastern Washington); head coach Chris Miller; and assistant coach Darrin McCarty.
That said, the South's tough defense held the upper hand most of the way on Saturday. In short, the North's first-half possessions ended this way: punt, downs, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt and end of half.
On the plus side, the North's "D" — with Johnson getting six tackles and Porter three — was nearly as good, making the South's first-half possessions end like this: downs, punt, touchdown, punt, downs, punt and interception.
And to be fair, some of the North's offensive challenges came from Miller's intricate offense, a system that the Lions ran to perfection in the fall but that the North occasionally struggled with on Saturday.
"The offense we run is pretty complicated. … I knew it pretty well and Jake Meisen knew it pretty well, too, but it was hard," Altenhofen said. "It's a tough offense to run when you only have a week to put it in."
"Coach Miller's offense isn't anything easy, especially because a lot of these guys come from different systems, some guys from power offenses, triple options," Maloney said. "We were just trying to help the guys hold it together. We still punched it in at the end of the game which was great, but it's not an easy offense to learn."
The North moved the ball into South territory just once in the opening half, and while the South wasn't markedly better, it did get the half's lone score. Following an Altenhofen fumble at the North's 21-yard line, South quarterback Wyatt Smith of McMinnville connected with Harrison Steiger of Wilsonville three plays later for a 17-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 1:41 to go in the first quarter.
After the North's Anthony Albright fumbled away its first possession of the second half, South kicker Jerin Appling of Grants Pass connected on a 28-yard field goal and extended his team's lead to 10-0 with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Needing two scores to tie or win, the North's hopes came down to one possession in the middle of the fourth quarter. On that series, the North drove 83 yards on 11 plays and pushed inside the South 10-yard line, but Sunset quarterback Jason Dumont saw two throws to the end zone — one to Central Catholic's Malik Thirdgill and one to Beaverton's Kendrick Ervin — both fall incomplete.
After the North got the ball back and scored on a two-yard run by Clackamas' Jake McGreevey, just 1:45 remained in the game and the South ran out the clock to win.
None of that, however, detracted from the great week that West Linn's players and coaches enjoyed leading up to Saturday's game.
"It would have been great if the other (West Linn players selected) could have joined us this week, but still, having these guys next to me, having my coaches in front of me, there couldn't be a better way to end my high school career," Maloney said.
"I was able to get a couple of grabs (in the second half) and get some yards so it was fun," Meisen said. "It was nice to have guys you've been with for four years to go through the process with."
"It was just great to be selected to play," Altenhofen added. "I got selected late, but I had a good week meeting new people and I had fun."