Lions let a 20-point first half lead slip away, fall to Rex Putnam 48-46.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Tanner Long runs out of places to hide from the Putnam defense. Long picked up 25 yards on the play, setting up the Lions' fourth touchdown.It seems the Lions aren’t done dropping heartbreakers. Friday evening, it was at the hands of Rex Putnam, who intercepted a desperation pass at the buzzer to preserve a 48-46 victory over the Lions on their home turf. For St. Helens (2-5, 0-5 NWOC) it was a step in the wrong direction in terms of making the playoffs as they fell for the second time by less than a field goal.

St. Helens actually held a two-touchdown lead at the halftime break, and took a 40-27 lead the less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, but the Kingsmen had other plans.

Quarterback Josey Swain stepped up as time expired in the third quarter, hitting standout receiver Tyler Strauss for a 36-yard touchdown pass to bring Putnam to within six points. Midway through the fourth, the Kingsman took their first lead off a huge 53 yard touchdown pass from Swain to senior wide receiver Corey Wells. The extra point from Annabella Geist gave the home team a one point edge.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Senior receiver Devon Jewett narrowly misses a reception in the fourth quarter. The near miss set up a fourth and 11 play where Gage Bumgardner took the ball 38 yards to the house.Now with less than six minutes remaining in the contest, it was time to finish things. The Lions got a controversial first down on fourth and 11 thanks to a reception from Devon Jewett to move the ball inside Kingsmen territory. Two plays later, Bumgardner burst through the defensive line and shot down the sideline, scuttling 38 yards and scoring what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown.

The problem was, the game still wasn’t over.

St. Helens forced Putnam into a turnover on downs at the Lions’ 45 yard line, but facing third-and-10, Bumgardner’s pass was picked off, giving the Kingsmen a short field with 2:45 left to play. The Lion defense held on the second set of downs, batting away a pass on third and 10 at their own 27 yard-line, but a pair of flags - for pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct - put Putnam in prime scoring position just six yards from the end zone, and with 32 seconds remaining, Swain snuck past the Lions for the go-ahead score.

There wasn’t much life left for St. Helens. Bryce Bumgardner returned the kickoff to the Lions’ 27 yard line, and with just eight seconds left, Gage Bumgardner hit Justin Helgerson up the right sideline for 53 yards to the Putnam 34 yard line with one tenth of a second remaining. Then came Bumgardner’s Hail-Mary, which found only the hands of Putnam’s defense, sealing the Lions’ defeat.

Defense was key to St. Helens’ demise, according to head coach Jared Phillips. The Lions were able to stop Putnam only twice in the final two quarters, giving up 21 points in the third and 14 points in the fourth quarter.

“Any time you put 46 points on the board, I think you should win football games. That’s the bottom line,” said Phillips. “We need to play better on defense.”

The loss stings, especially since it was a game in which the Lions controlled the first half.

“It’s a game that we could’ve won, should have won,” said Phillips. “We’re just not finishing games the way we need to finish games to win.”

Senior lineman Jacob Zartman played part of the first and all of the second half with a swollen knee. Following an unusually somber team huddle, Zartman didn’t have much of an answer other than a deep need to put teams away.

“We had this one in the bag,” said Zartman. “But we’ve gotta finish. We’ve gotta execute better. I feel like we’ve had good weeks of practice, but we’re just not finishing the games.”

It’s a mind game for Zartman, a vocal leader on the offensive line and on defense. He said it has to do with seeing the bigger picture instead of letting one or two good plays by the offense. As ever, Zartman ended on a positive note about the team’s future.

“We’ll be fine,” he said.

St. Helens 15-12-13-6 -- 46

Rex Putnam 7-6-21-14 -- 48


1st Quarter

SH - 8:55 Gage Bumgardner 4 run (Ivan Alcazar kick)

RP - 7:33 Tyler Strauss 26 run (Annabella Geist kick)

SH - 6:09 Bryce Bumgardner 24 pass from G. Bumgardner (Pass to Justin Helgerson)

2nd Quarter

SH - 9:00 Tyler Rea 6 run (kick failed)

SH - 3:21 Tanner Long 3 run (kick blocked)

RP - 0:26 Strauss 18 pass from Josey Swain (run failed)

3rd Quarter

RP - 10:10 Richie Seratt 22 run (Geist kick)

SH - 9:47 Long 10 pass from G. Bumgardner (pass failed)

RP - 7:17 Seratt 11 run (Geist kick)

SH - 0:59 G. Bumgarder 3 run (Alcazar kick)

RP - :00 Strauss 36 pass from Swain (kick good)

4th Quarter

RP - 6:11 Corey Wells 53 pass from Swain (Geist kick)

SH - 4:40 G. Bumgardner 38 run (run failed)

RP - 0:32 Swain 4 run (Geist kick)

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