HALSEY — As Central Linn High head coach Mark Watt gathered his team postgame, he had one message for his players.

“We’re not done — that’s one game. Our dreams are not finished," he said. 

The Cobras lost their season opener to Weston-McEwen 30-7 Friday night. But Watt, who is in his first campaign as Central Linn’s sole head coach after sharing coaching duties last year, wanted his players to know that their season is far from over despite the disappointing result.

“I really believe this is going to make us better,” Watt said. “I’m looking forward to what’s going on with this team. Every one of our players got onto the field tonight and played and they’re gonna get better for that.”

For a team that is integrating seven new starters on both sides of the ball, Watt knows there will be some growing pains early in the season. But for the majority of three quarters, the Cobras hung tight with a physical Weston-McEwen squad, and trailed just 6-0 going into halftime.

Central Linn had trouble picking up first downs all game and wasn't able to sustain many long drives early in the game. They made things equally difficult for the TigerScots, though.

Weston-McEwen finally broke a scoreless tie midway through the second quarter when it began a drive on the Cobras’ 47 and marched into the end zone on six plays. Quarterback Blane Peal plunged in on a one-yard keeper play to cap off the drive.

The Cobras false-started on the first two plays of their next drive, but quarterback Dylan Day delivered a 7-yard pass and then a 12-yarder to move the chains. Central Linn got to midfield before failing to convert on a fourth-and-2 scenario on their last offensive play of the half.

While a failure to pick up first downs haunted the Cobras in the first half, turnovers would be their undoing in the second. They went on an eight-play, 57-yard drive to begin the third quarter, but fumbled at their own 13 and lost the ball.

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The TigerScots made them pay for the turnover when Nevin Malchow reeled off a 51-yard touchdown run to make it 12-0. Two minutes later, Weston-McEwen’s Peyton McLouth broke loose for a 72-yard run, and the TigerScots scored again on the next play to push their lead to 18-0.

All game, the Cobras appeared to be one or two big plays away from taking control. But those plays never came on the offensive side of the ball. Rather, their biggest spark of the evening came on a 78-yard kick return for a touchdown by Dustin Baze to make it 18-7 with 3:57 to go in the third quarter.

“All it takes is one play — just one play to flip that offense,” Day said. “That kick return that Dustin brought back really had us believing that it was about to happen.”

But two muffed punt returns later in the half devastated the Cobras’ comeback cause, and the TigerScots began to uncork a couple of big plays to take total control of the game. Theo White pulled down a 30-yard touchdown pass from Peal to make it 24-7, and added a 33-yard score in the fourth quarter to finish off the game.

Both of White’s receptions came on fade routes and both were set up by a heavy dosage of run plays that lured the Cobras’ defense into the box.

“It helps that we’ve got a great offensive line,” White said. “They blocked really well today. Blane gave me a few really good ball. … It felt amazing.”

Even through the game unraveled late for Central Linn, Watt was quick to point out that the Cobras were incredibly disciplined on Friday. They did not get flagged for a single personal foul, while Weston-McEwen was penalized for four. They also did not surrender an extra point or two-point conversion on any of the TigerScots' five touchdowns.

Next week, Central Linn will make a 278-mile trip to face Stanfield.

“You’ve gotta learn these lessons from somewhere,” Day said of Friday’s mistakes. “All these seniors, we had to learn too. It was a great effort, but we’ve got to continue it. … It’s not all about the physicality — we’ve got to be mentally stronger too.”

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