OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — When Tim Tawa graduated from West Linn last year, he left behind a gaping hole and a lengthy resume. As the Lions quarterback, Tawa broke the state record for completions, passing yards and touchdowns while leading West Linn to an undefeated season and a 6A state championship.
Replacing Tawa wouldn’t be easy for anyone. It’s a task filled with immense pressure, but Ethan Long isn’t looking at it that way.
Other KOIN 6 Blitz games this week:
> Camas 35, Central Catholic 13
> Lake Oswego 40, Lincoln 0
> Jesuit 34, Tigard 28 (OT)
> Sherwood 34, Westview 12
“Everyone always said, ‘Oh, you have to fill Tim Tawa’s shoes,’” Long said. “That’s a lot of pressure, I guess you could say, but I just take it as, ‘I’m going to play the best I can and do the best I can.’ I’m not going to be Tim. What happens, happens, but I can’t fill him.”
Long may not be able to replicate Tawa’s production, but, according to his head coach Chris Miller, “he’s going to be a baller.”
Long showed some of that ability in his first test Friday. West Linn’s new starting quarterback finished Friday’s game against Oregon City with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, leading the Lions to a 42-7 victory.
“Ethan’s going to be a baller,” Miller said. “It’s hard to teach 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, 4.6 speed and that type of arm strength. He’ll settle in.”
Settling in didn’t happen instantaneously for Long on Friday. The junior led the Lions down the field on their opening drive, but instead of capping the drive with a touchdown, Long threw an endzone interception to Oregon City’s Teron Bradford. The Pioneers went down and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run by Austin Bonner.
Long could’ve been hung up on trying to force the ball into the back of the endzone. But Miller, a former NFL quarterback, told Long to do the opposite.
“Hey, you’re going to be fine,” Long remembers Miller telling him. “Just flush it, comeback and lead this team.”
Long took Miller’s words to heart.
“It’s part of a learning process and he kept it clean the rest of the day,” Miller siad of Long. “He made a lot of nice throws and some good runs.”
On their next drive, Long once again led the Lions down the field. This time, they found the endzone, with a little help from what Miller called the best backfield in the state. Running back Dawson Jolley evaded multiple Oregon City defenders en route to a 19-yard touchdown and the first score of West Linn’s season.
The combination of Jolley, Franklin transfer Ahmir McGee — who later scored on a 14-yard touchdown reception — and Tyler Good is something Miller thinks West Linn can lean on through a long season.
“This is a marathon, not sprint,” Miller said. “To have three really good backs is nice.
“It’s nice to have those options and teams are going to have to play us with 6 or 7 (defenders) in the box, which will open us up on the perimeter.”
McGee, in his first game with the Lions, said the cohesion and balance the backfield showcased was exactly what they planned.
“When i first got here I just knew we could be really special,” he said. “Adding me, it’s so many different weapons.”
After the first drive, the West Linn offense clicked and found a rhythm. But the Lions’ scoring wasn’t done solely on the offensive side of the ball. It’s something Miller hoped from his team heading into this season.
“We talked to our defense and told them our goal is to score in the 40s and the 50s each game,” Miller said, “and it doesn’t have to all be on offense.”
Early in the third quarter, with West Linn leading 28-7, Oregon City was driving down the field, hoping to shorten the deficit. Instead, deep in West Linn’s territory, they added to it.
Linebacker Taryn Floyd came untouched on a blitz off the edge and delivered a big hit to Bonner. The ball flew forward and fellow linebacker Luke Hamper snagged it before running 84 yards for the touchdown.
“It felt amazing just getting in there and finally being able to unleash on a quarterback because in practice we’re held back,” Floyd, who admitted his eyes widened at the idea of an open sack, said. “It felt great to just finally get after it.”
Hamper’s interception return all but sealed the victory.
Miller said, after losing 34 seniors, there was bound to be some adjustments. West Linn, and Long, faced that, but the way they responded has their coach excited about the rest of the season.
“I was kind of pleased we started with a little adversity,” he said, “and obviously really pleased with how we finished.”
Scores and highlights
Other KOIN 6 Blitz games this week:
Camas 35, Central Catholic 13
Lake Oswego 40, Lincoln 0
Jesuit 34, Tigard 28 (OT)
Sherwood 34, Westview 12