St. Helens rallies in second half, but Parkrose Broncos hang on to get playoff spot

PHOTO COURTESY: JEREMY DUECK - St. Helens running back Isaiah Bettencourt dives for a few extra yards against Parkrose.Two big plays changed the complexion of the game last Friday (Oct. 26) and went a long way toward keeping the St. Helens Lions out of the state playoffs.

The Parkrose defense returned a fumble 100-plus yards for the first touchdown and hiked their lead to 12-0 shortly before halftime with an 80-yard interception runback for another score.

Those two plays put host St. Helens in catch-up mode. And while the Lions gave it a good shot, the Broncos held on and won, 26-16.

St. Helens' season ended at 4-5 with the loss in the Special District 1 playoff matchup.

Parkrose (5-4) is seeded 15th in the 16-team state tournament field and will travel to No. 2-seeded Churchill on Friday.

"The ball bounces funny ways when it's raining. They had some momentum-changers," St. Helens coach Cory Young said. "Just wasn't our day."

The Broncos were 0-9 in 2017. But they've turned it around under new coach Keanon Lowe, a former Jesuit High and University of Oregon receiver.

"Our kids battled all night — really they battled all year — and now they're in the playoffs and I couldn't be happier for them," Lowe said.

Parkrose's defense bent a little but not a lot on Friday against St. Helens' persistent running attack, part-single wing with much misdirection.

"We feel we have one of the best defenses in 5A," Lowe said. "We're tough to move the rock on."

The defense came through at the very end, too. The Lions' offense got the ball at the St. Helens 17-yard line with 1:32 remaining, and no timeouts left. St. Helens moved to the 50 before running out of time and downs.

"Parkrose is a scrappy group. Well-coached kids. They played really hard. They played well enough to win," Young said. "It wasn't a playoff game, but it was — it was loser go home, and both sides were battling to stay on the field. I had a feeling it was going to be a close one between two pretty good teams with equal records."

The game turned early on a stunning turn of events involving the Parkrose defense.

St. Helens had first-and-goal at the Parkrose 1 when Jakob Robbins tried to get across the goal line on a quarterback sneak. Robbins banged into a pile, and the ball squirted loose. It rolled into the end zone, like a ball coming out of a rugby scrum. Parkrose defensive back Des Pooler, standing behind the chaos, had time to spot the ball, pick it up unchallenged and then take off on a length-of-the-field dash, scoring with 1:33 left in the first quarter.

"A dude on my team yelled out, 'Fumble!,'" Pooler said, "and I was wondering where the ball was. After I got it, I just starting running and juked one guy, and really, it was easy."

St. Helens had other scoring opportunities that went poof, none more costly than a sequence late in the second quarter.

First, the Lions had first-and-goal at the 2 and failed to score.

They got the ball back at the 13 after a stop and seven-yard Parkrose punt.

But with 1:40 left in the quarter, Parkrose defensive back Taydrian Jackson picked off a Robbins pass and raced the 80 yards for another game-changing TD.

So, at the half, Parkrose didn't have a first down and had just 18 yards of total offense on 11 snaps (to St. Helens' 165 yards) — but the Broncos led 12-0.

After the intermission, the Lions drove 70 yards in 12 plays — 11 on the ground — and scored on Connor Koelzer's 2-yard run to cut their deficit to 12-7 midway through the third quarter.

Parkrose scored on its next possession, though, to take an 18-7 lead.

The Broncos got another touchdown 59 seconds into the fourth quarter — and, as things turned out, they needed it.

Down 26-7, the Lions mounted a rally.

Robbins completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to running back Isaiah Bettencourt with 9:37 to go.

And, with 3:15 remaining, Shawn Lee ran five very tough yards on fourth-and-goal for another TD. The point-after kick made the score 26-21.

Parkrose lineman Kobe Roebeck recovered St. Helens' onside kick, but the Broncos failed to make a first down and had to punt.

But St. Helens had too much real estate (83 yards) to cover in too little time (92 seconds).

"A few more timeouts, a few more stops ... in the end, we just ran out of time," Young said. "The kids were still playing hard. They don't quit.

"But we dug ourselves a hole early, didn't execute and gave Parkrose some big plays."

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