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Both Scappoose, St. Helens look to play their best in high school football rivalry

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Quarterback Jakobi Kessi of Scappoose High takes a snap from center.It's Seven-Mile War week on the gridiron, and that always means more than a thing or two.

"Biggest game this year. Nothing's going to top it," said St. Helens senior quarterback Jakob Robbins. "And it's homecoming."

The game starts at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Helens, which has won two in a row but hasn't played a team as highly ranked as Scappoose.

The Indians will be coming off their first loss of the season, but that was at Pendleton — a tough place to play and against an opponent now ranked sixth in the state by the Class 5A coaches.

Both the Indians and Lions will need to up their game this week.

"We're now in a situation where we've got a loss and it's a matter of learning from it," Scappoose coach Sean McNabb said.

And, after having to battle till the final seconds at Wilson last week before emerging with a 56-49 victory, the Lions "knew right off the bat that we have some things to clean up," St. Helens coach Cory Young said.

McNabb elaborated: "Some things (at Pendleton) were pretty glaring that we as a coaching staff have to do a good job of fixing the next few weeks, a little at a time. You can't do it all overnight."

Young, meanwhile, said his players were immediately motivated to shore up some things as well.

"There's no egos here," Young said. "The kids were ready to get back to work this week and to get better."

Motivation for Friday night shouldn't be a problem, of course.

"We're happy with the win (at Wilson), but we're focused on Scappoose," St. Helens lineman Alden Finch said. "They're our rival. We want to win every game, but Scappoose is the game every year."

McNabb noted that for his Indians, "you're coming off a loss, so that's got to motivate you, and you're playing your crosstown rival, and it's a league game. So there's a lot of things that go into this.

"St. Helens is scoring a lot of points," McNabb said, "and they want to beat us. They have some decent-sized kids up front, they run some different stuff offensively that we don't usually see, and there's a short time to prepare, and defensively they run some stuff we don't normally see.

"Cory and his staff do a good job with those kids. They're going to be very competitive."

Scappoose won at home 49-25 last year, so the Indians have both the bragging rights and, on paper, the look of a clear favorite.

"We've got to have our best game," Robbins said. "We've got to hold them under 30 points, that's what I think. They've got a good offense with (QB) Jakobi Kessi, but if we can hold them under 30, I think our offense can top that."

In the rivalry game one year ago, St. Helens scored first — and quickly. Senior safety Isaiah Bettencourt hauled in an overthrown pass and raced 45 yards for a touchdown on the return, only 12 seconds into the contest.

But after that, it was mostly Scappoose. The Indians played fast, as they like to do, and ran the ball, as they like to do, and piled up 310 yards on the ground, 6.9 yards per carry.

Kessi came back from the early interception with three first-half TD runs to help Scappoose seize control with a 36-7 halftime lead.

It was the Connor McNabb Show as well, as the then-Indians senior back returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown — and 7-7 tie — and found the end zone on runs of 29 and 43 yards. He finished with 139 yards on 12 rushing attempts, and set up Scappoose's third touchdown with a 46-yard punt return.

The wild start to last year's game included a Scappoose fumble recovery on a bobbled kickoff and a subsequent touchdown that gave the Indians a 15-7 lead after only 31 seconds.

Connor McNabb has graduated, and is playing for Linfield College, but the Indians have reloaded — and they still have Kessi and another big, experienced offensive line.

St. Helens came on late in last year's game, and rang up 192 of its 258 yards of total offense in the second half, after falling behind 36-7.

This will be the second year that the game counts in the league standings — in football, both schools now are in the West Division of the Oregon School Activities Association's Special District 1.

Scappoose is 2-0 in league play this season, and on a collision course with Wilsonville (2-0). Last week, the Wildcats survived a scare from Hillsboro, holding off the Spartans 30-26 at Hare Field. Hillsboro had lost 47-30 at Scappoose the week before.

Forest Grove is 2-1 in the West Division, with a loss to Scappoose. St. Helens is 1-1, just ahead of Cleveland (1-2) and Hillsboro (1-2), which beat the Lions 54-14. Wilson is 0-3.

After this week's rivalry game, the Lions will finish their regular season with games Oct. 10 at Cleveland and Oct. 18 at home against Wilsonville and Oct. 25 at home versus Forest Grove.

Scappoose's final three regular-season games are Oct. 10 at Wilsonville, Oct. 18 at home against Wilson and Oct. 25 at home versus Cleveland.PMG PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - Jakob Robbins of St. Helens gets off a pass just ahead of a Wilson rusher, as Alden Finch protects the pocket for the Lions.

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