MILWAUKIE - The Rex Putnam Kingsmen gave the Clackamas Cavaliers all they could handle Friday night in a showdown with Clackamas for the Three Rivers League's fourth and final berth in the Class 6A state football playoffs.
Clackamas prevailed 26-14, but it was still a 14-14 ball game with nine minutes to play.
'Big props to the defense,' said Clackamas wide receiver Ricky Cookman. 'The defense turned it around.'
Clackamas' defense did shine, stopping the Kingsmen at the 1 with a goal line stand in the first period, and forcing the Kingsmen to attempt a 26-yard field goal after a third-period stop.
But Clackamas' passing game and an injury to Putnam star running back Joevonte Mayes were equally important.
Mayes, one of the state's leading rushers, left Putnam's offensive backfield with leg cramps with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. He had rushed 22 times for 93 yards at the time, and he had been giving Cavalier defenders fits with his runs to the outside.
Without Mayes, the Kingsmen had to depend on Ryan Smith's passing arm. Smith responded by hooking up with receivers on a 10-play drive that knotted the score at 14-all with 10:24 remaining.
But Putnam's offense sputtered after that, while the Cavaliers rallied around their quarterback, Ryan Cook, to pull out the victory.
A 41-yard long bomb to Cookman put Clackamas up 20-14 with 8:44 to play.
Putnam punted, and seven plays later, Cook found Cookman in the right corner of the end zone for an 11-yard score, and the game was in hand.
Cook, who had 128 yards passing in the first half, had 311 yards on the night, completing 23-of-34 attempts for three touchdowns.
Cookman had eight catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns; wide receiver Kylle Walkoski had eight catches for 100 yards.
Ryan Smith completed 19-of-27 passes for 172 yards in the losing effort.
'We knew we had to win this to get into the playoffs,' said Cookman. 'We're going to be a sleeper team in the playoffs. So watch out!'
The win put the Cavaliers at 2-3 in league (4-4 overall) with their only league game remaining a Nov. 3 contest at winless Oregon City.
The Kingsmen slipped to 1-4 in league (4-4 overall) with the loss.
'We played with heart,' said Putnam team co-captain Paul Stirneman. 'We did everything we could to win it.'