After wild early start, which features three touchdowns in 31 seconds, Indians' ground game takes control in first edition of new football league rivalry

PHOTO COURTESY: JOHN BREWINGTON - Connor McNabb cuts back on a long run for Scappoose in its victory at home against St. Helens on Friday night.The pace and power of the Scappoose Indians were too much for the dogged St. Helens Lions in their Friday football showdown at Scappoose.

The Lions scored on the first offensive play of the game — with safety Isaiah Bettencourt intercepting a pass and returning it 45 yards for a touchdown. And St. Helens got the only two touchdowns of the fourth quarter.

But in between, it was almost all Scappoose, which won, 49-25.

"St. Helens is our biggest rival, I feel, in our league right now, and we were all really excited to play them," Scappoose receiver/defensive end Gavin Larson said. "We were pumped up all week and worked really hard. We had a ton of fun playing tonight."

The Indians did it with their usual uptempo approach and ground-and-pound offense. With three running backs and quarterback Jakobi Kessi taking turns carrying the ball, Scappoose ran for 310 yards, 6.9 per rush.

Kessi scored on three first-half touchdown runs to help the Indians stake a 36-7 lead. He dashed into the end zone from 8, 7 and 11 yards.

Running back Connor McNabb finished with two rushing touchdowns, of 29 and 43 yards, and returned a kickoff 77 yards for another score.

McNabb wound up with 12 carries for 139 yards, Kessi 13 for 75 yards, and big back Quincy Cleveland 11 for 74.

"Our offensive line is one of the best we've had in a long, long time," Scappoose coach Sean McNabb said, "and we know we have three really good running backs, and when you put Jakobi in there as another runner, we have four weapons who all run really well."

Up front, the fearsome fivesome consisted of left tackle Liam McMullen (6-4, 260-pound senior), left guard Tommy McKedy (6-5, 305 junior), center Jerico Archer (6-3, 250 junior), right guard Cutter Sandstrom (6-0, 265 sophomore) and right tackle Terrence Lewis (6-3, 260 senior).

"You've got to give it up to the linemen. They did a great job," Cleveland said.

St. Helens had its moments, though, and the game began with a wild first few plays.

After the opening kickoff went out of bounds, Scappoose tried a pass on first down. The throw by Kessi sailed into the arms of Bettencourt, who was able to get to the sidelines and score untouched, giving St. Helens a 7-0 lead.

But McNabb fielded the next kickoff and burst into the open for a tying touchdown return.

"He has the ability to score whenever he touches the ball," Coach McNabb said. "When they kicked it off and I saw it was going to him, I felt pretty good about that. We got some great blocks downfield, and he made a nice run. We got back in the game, just like that."

And not only that, but on Scappoose's ensuing kickoff, the Lions had trouble fielding the bouncing ball, and the Indians' Blake Morkert got to it for a recovery on the St. Helens 8-yard-line.

Kessi scored on the next play, and McNabb improvised after a high PAT snap with a two-point conversion run. Just like that, Scappoose had a 15-7 lead only 31 seconds into the game.

On St. Helens' next possession, Indians defensive back Michael Reed came up with an interception — the first of three in the game by Scappoose.

The Lions stopped the Indians' drive with a fourth-down sack by Conner Koelzer.

But St. Helens had to punt, and Connor McNabb made a 46-yard return to the St. Helens 20. Kessi hit Larson for 16 yards on fourth-and-13, and the QB scored from the 7 on the next play, lifting the Indians into a 22-7 lead with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Scappoose added touchdown runs by Kessi and McNabb, and McNabb's 43-yard TD sprint pushed the Indians' advantage to 42-7 midway through the third quarter.

St. Helens' offense produced three touchdowns the rest of the way, though.

Two came on touchdown throws (of 23 and 20 yards) from quarterback Leif Nelson to wide receiver Chris Beatty.

Bettencourt broke through the middle of the Scappoose defense on a 38-yard touchdown run with 3:16 left in the game.

"We talked about some things at halftime, and the kids came out and played with good effort," St. Helens coach Cory Young said. "There's no quit in them. We put ourselves in a big hole, but they kept fighting and kept scratching."

Scappoose finished with 430 yards of offense to St. Helens' 258 (the first-half edge was 272-66).

The Indians had 24 first downs to 16 for the Lions, with Scappoose leading in that category 16-4 at halftime.

Scappoose improved to 4-1 this season, while St. Helens dropped to 2-3.

The two schools are league rivals now for the first time in years, as members of the Oregon School Activities Association's new Class 5A Special District 1. Both are in the West Division, and Scappoose is 3-1 in league play, St. Helens 2-2.

Next Friday night, the Lions will play host to Cleveland (1-4, 1-3 in the league).

"You've got to have a short memory, fix some things, and move forward," Young said.

Scappoose has another big game, at home against Wilsonville (4-0, 2-0). The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the state for 5A this week in the OSAA coaches poll.

"We're going to have to be on our 'A' game and be sharp," Coach McNabb said.

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