St. Helens is still in search of first league win in two seasons

Though Milwaukie and St. Helens sit neck and neck in the OSAA rankings at 23 and 27 respectively, it’s really not fair to say the teams are on equal footing.

Milwaukie (1-7, 1-5 NWOC) simply isn’t a good football team. Their lone win came when Wilsonville self-reported a violation and took the forfeit.

One can make the argument for St. Helens (2-6, 0-6 NWOC) being the opposite. The Lions are one of those teams who are far better than their record shows. It’s one thing to get to where St. Helens is by falling to good teams in close games and having good performances on each side of the ball – just not always in the same night. It’s entirely another to be blown out each week, which is exactly what Milwaukie has done.

The Lions lost to Putnam by two points, while Milwaukie lost by 35. Against Parkrose, it was a five point spread for St. Helens, and the Broncos were blasted 51-7. It’s easy to see the distinct separation between these two squads, and it should be easy to give the Lions a ‘W’ before the game is kicked off, but you can’t.

It’s more than the any-given-Friday argument. The Mustangs have something more valuable to play for than football.

Going in to this season, Milwaukie had strong potential. They were slated to do well in the Northwest Oregon Conference, even landing a spot in the playoffs for the first time in years.

But disaster struck shortly before the Broncos could get started when junior quarterback Aaron Walston was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer just 11 days before Milwaukie’s season opener with Sherwood.

Since the Broncos lost their leader, they haven’t come closer to a victory than their 20-0 loss to Sandy. They’ve been blown out by 49 points against Sherwood, 56 points against Pendelton and 58 points at the hands of Parkrose.

It’s difficult to say whether Milwaukie would have challenged any of those teams with Walston on the roster, but it’s clear he would have made a huge difference on the field. It’s also unclear whether he will see extensive time on the gridiron this Friday, but his return is a possibility. On the practice field as early as the middle of October, the news at the time was he could be playing for the Broncos by the seasons’ end, and Walston has already suited up in weeks prior.

Either way, this game is as much more about heart and pride for both teams than for most at the end of a long season. St. Helens is looking for their first league victory in two seasons on senior night, and Milwaukie will attempt to avoid a disastrous winless season.

That said, if the Lions want to finish on a good note, they’ll hardly get a better chance. Senior quarterback Gage Bumgardner has continued to be a constant threat on the ground, and with the persistant improvement of Myles Terry and Tyler Rea, the Lions’ future corps of running backs, they have a ton to throw in the direction of the Broncos.

This week it’ll be about taking care of the little things. The Lions have a solid defensive line, but anything can happen if they give their opponent a short field to work with, due to turnovers or bad special teams play. They may not need perfection, but being far from buttoned-down will give the Broncos a fighting chance.

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