Forest Grove too much for St. Helens 41-12
Often football is about bigger, faster, stronger, but on this night it was more about execution â€“ and Forest Grove was up to the challenge.
The Vikings jumped on visiting St. Helens early, created a handful of big plays, and made it count defensively when it mattered most en route to a 41-12 win Friday night, Oct. 1, at Forest Grove High School.
"Our big focus this week was discipline and doing our job," Forest Grove head coach Dominic Ferraro said. "That was kind of an issue last week, and we struggled being in the right spot both offensively and defensively. So, this week was just about doing our job and playing hard, and we got that right tonight."
To the contrary, St. Helens was often their own worst enemy, failing to execute the little things, which in turn led to big plays in all three phases of the game â€“ offense, defense and special teams.
"We just had a lot of mental mistakes," St. Helens head coach Cory Young said. "Hats off to Forest Grove who was much improved on both sides of the ball, but we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds that led to them getting momentum early, and they kept it."
One of those momentum swings came with the Vikings (3-2) already leading 7-0 after quarterback Kaden Hale scored from 1-yard out following a 60-yard halfback pass to James Oberhelman. On the next possession, St. Helens drove inside the Forest Grove 5-yard line before a Kaden Clute sack moved the Lions back, then on the ensuing play Oberhelman intercepted St. Helens quarterback Tyler Tolles and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown to put the Vikes ahead 14-0.
"That was a really big swing," Ferraro said. "We've asked James (Oberhelman) to do a lot with Jake (Steltenpohl) being out and he's stepped up. Starting off with a touchdown, and then to get a defensive play like that was really big."
Young agreed with Ferraro's assessment, but tried to rally his players in the wake of the disastrous turn of events â€“ to no avail on this night.
"We try to tell them all the time to handle the sudden change because that's what good teams do when you lose momentum or something like that happens," the St. Helens coach said. "You have to be that much better and rally, but we just had too many self-inflicted wounds tonight to get that momentum back."
Oberhelman was more surprised by the play, thinking just prior to the interception that his teammates had sacked the quarterback.
"I saw my teammates tackling the quarterback, but as they did the ball went into the air and fell right into my arms," he said. "I caught it and just started running. It felt pretty awesome."
Forest Grove wasn't satisfied however, attempting and recovering an onside kick which put the Vikings at the St. Helens 45-yard line. Three plays later Hale connected with Kyle Ulloa on a 27-yard touchdown pass to put the Vikes ahead 20-0, and after a Lions three-and-out on their next possession Forest Grove made it 27-0 when Hale hit Trevor Cannon on a 40-yard scoring pass just seven seconds into the second quarter.
St. Helens (1-3) didn't quit however, answering with a scoring drive of their own, going 53 yards in eight plays, capped by a Tolles 3-yard touchdown run to pull the Lions within 27-6. But Forest Grove wasted little time returning the favor when Sam Blanton scored on a 25-yard screen pass to put the Vikes ahead 34-6 heading to halftime.
The touchdown pass was the third in the half for Hale, who finished with 182 passing yards and five total touchdowns. The Vikings threw the ball fairly well throughout the game, but did work on the ground as well â€“ something Ferraro said makes everything easier.
"We'd like to be fairly balanced, but when you can run the football everything's a lot easier," the coach said. "Things really open up."
It wasn't all about the offense however, for the Vikes did their best defensive work when it mattered most. Despite allowing the Lions into the red zone on a handful of occasions throughout the game, Forest Grove saved their best for when their backs were against their own goal line, twice turning St. Helens over on downs inside the Vikings 10-yard line.
Oberhelman said plays like that are what it's all about, and that it can't help but get them back where they ultimately wanted to be â€“ winning.
"That's a great feeling to hold 'em like that," he said. "It's awesome to get those stops, and awesome to get back on the winning side of things."
St. Helens capped the scoring with a late Austin Stockwell 12-yard touchdown run.
Forest Grove will host league-leading Wilsonville next week.
St. Helens will play at North Salem.
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