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Jake Steltenpohl catches a 35-yard touchdown pass as time expires, but Viks fail on 2-point conversion attempt to drop 26-24 contest.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Jake Steltenpohl leaps for a late touchdown catch against St. Helens Friday night, March 26, at St. Helens High School.Close, by definition, isn't close enough.

Forest Grove was a 2-point conversion away from tying St. Helens after time had expired Friday night, March 26, but as Ayden Case's pass attempt on a reverse pass slipped through the hands of an open receiver in the north endzone at Doc Ackerson Stadium, opportunity was lost, and found was another Vikings defeat as visiting Forest Grove fell to the Lions 26-24.

"I thought it would be there because the misdirection was there all night," Forest Grove head coach Perry Herbst said. "We got what we wanted, it just didn't work out."

The Viks tied the game after a goal line stand set up the potential game-tying drive as quarterback Kaden Clute drove Forest Grove 90 yards in 50 seconds, capped by a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jake Steltenpohl as time expired.

The drive started with a 12-yard catch and run by junior receiver Kyle Ulloa and consisted of a series of out-routes and heady Clute scrambles, setting up Steltenpohl's leaping catch in the end zone as time expired.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - St. Helens running back Mavrick Rask carries the ball against Forest Grove Friday night, March 26, at St. Helens High School."He (Clute) did a great job of getting out of the pocket and taking what the defense gave him," Herbst said. "The offensive line did their job and Clute was a real field general out there. It's a shame it didn't work out in the end."

It did however work out for the Lions, who got their first win of the season on "Senior Night" in front of a growing number of fans as state restrictions continue ease from the ongoing pandemic.

"You know, I'm just excited for the guys," St. Helens head coach Cory Young said. "We had fans in the stands, the band playing, and on 'Senior Night,' it was fun to see."

The Lions — like the Vikings — have struggled this season faced with dwindling participation numbers and on the wrong end of two lopsided defeats. But young said his team never quit, which what made this win that much sweeter.

"You always need wins, but we really needed this," the coach said. "We've done some good things in practice the last couple of weeks, and the kids have been smiling and working hard, and we saw that on the field tonight."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's David Johnson carries the ball against St. Helens Friday night, March 26, at St. Helens High School.Despite Forest Grove scoring first when running back David Johnson ran one in from 4-yards out, the first half was mostly about St. Helens who used a series of big plays to take a 26-12 lead to the halftime locker room.

The Lions tied the game when senior running back Mavrick Rask bulled his way for a 52-yard scoring run to tie the game 6-6.

Forest Grove retook the lead a drive later when Ulloa capped a 66-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Viks ahead 12-6.

St. Helens however dominated the opening half from there, using a second Rask touchdown run, a 19-yard Tyler Tolles touchdown run, and a 53-yard touchdown pass from Tolles to Garrett Smith to take 14-point halftime lead.

"We came out a bit hesitant and they did a nice job running their quarterback, which we hadn't really seen on film," Herbst said. "We got caught looking in the backfield a couple times and that's when those big plays happened. So in the second half we reminded the kids to read their keys and then told them if they did they'd be fine, and we did a lot better job."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - St. Helens' Hayden Bigham and Forest Grove's Alex Mannen figh for a ball during their game Friday night, March 26, at St. Helens High School.Both teams struggled in the third quarter, but the Vikings were able to pull within a score when Clute ran five yards around the left end for a score on fourth-and-goal, cutting the lead to 26-18 following the Viks' third failed two-point conversion attempt of the night.

The Lions lost a fumble on an errant snap on the ensuing drive, giving Forest Grove the ball at the St. Helens 35-yard line. But the Vikings drive was thwarted when St. Helens' defense bowed-up and stymied the visitors on a fourth-and-1 play, forcing a turnover and appearing to ice the game.

"We've talked about handling a sudden change," Young said. "Good defenses do that, and we haven't been a good defense most of the year. But they were impressive stepping up and getting that stop."

The Vikings stepped up and got their stop on the next possession, stopping the Lions on four straight plays from the 3-yard line before stuffing a fourth down run attempt to set up Forest Grove's final drive.

Unfortunately for the Vikings it didn't work out, but for St Helens it was a much needed win, and one Rask — as a senior — will remember.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Kyle Ulloa carries the ball during the Vikings' game against St. Helens Friday night, March 26, at St. Helens High School."We were really hoping to win this game on our 'Senior Night,'" Rask said. "We had to execute right up to the very end, but we did and it feels good."

Rask finished with 17 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

Steltenpohl finished with three catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, while Ulloa had 12 carries for 49 yards and a score coupled with five catches for 55 yards.

Forest Grove will host Hillsboro at 7:00 p.m. next Friday, April 2.

St. Helens will host rival Scappoose at 7:00 p.m. also on Friday, April 2.

In other games: Liberty quarterback Hiro Diamond scrambled 18 yards for a touchdown in the game's final minute to propel the previously winless Falcons to a 32-28 win over crosstown and previously unbeaten Century. Emilio Hernandez rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries for the Jaguars, while Diamond was 12-of-15 for 144 yards with two touchdowns passing, while rushing for 56 yards on 15 carries. Sherwood's Clay Peden scored from 65 yards out on the game's first snap, propelling the Bowmen to a 34-10 win over visiting Glencoe. Peden finished with 108 yards rushing on seven carries with two touchdowns, while the Crimson Tide were paced by Royce Fasel who carried 28 times for 85 yards, and Jackson Kind who added 70 yards rushing and a touchdown. Banks bounced back from the previous week's defeat to Mazama by thrashing Milwaukie 55-6. The Braves were led by Jamar Flippen who carried 11 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns, and scored twice on punt returns. Senior lineman Tyler Exline also had an interception return for a touchdown for Banks.

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