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Lions have few early problems with Cleveland Friday

The Lions roll to a 36-point lead, but let Cleveland get within range in the last 15 minutes of the game


by: JOHN BREWINGTON - Jacob Zartman (56) led the Lion defense on Friday. He hauled down Gabe Rowell of Cleveland on this play. His efforts included two blocked punts, one for a touchdown, and two sacks.The St. Helens Lions kicked off their football season Friday with a 36-22 win over visiting Cleveland.

The Lions dominated in the contest in the first half, rolling up 29 unanswered points. They took a 36-0 lead with another score in the third, but then their lack of depth showed when Cleveland came back quickly against the subs. The comeback made St. Helens Coach John England nervous enough that he put his starters back into the contest.

Early, though, it was Tanner Long running and Gage Bumgardner throwing on offense, plus a huge effort from Jacob Zartman on defense that let the Lions dominate.

Zartman was just everywhere for the Lions. He blocked a punt early on that Joey Beggio recovered in the end zone for the Lions first score. He kicked two extra points while St. Helens regular kickers had to sit because they hadn’t had enough practices.

“Zartman had a pretty big night,” Coach John England said. “He had two blocked punts, eight tackles and two assists, and a pass deflection. Two of his tackles were sacks.”

Late in the game, Zartman put the hurt on a Cleveland player, hitting him so hard in the end zone his helmet came off. The player lay motionless for awhile, and Zartman celebrated.

“I had to have a talk with him, he didn’t realize the player was hurt,” England said.

While Zartman was leading the Lions’ defense, Tanner Long was shredding the Cleveland defense.

All he did was rush 18 times for 119 yards and catch five passes for 119 yards. He scored four times. One of those scores came on a “hook and ladder play”--a 6-yard pass reception by Corey West, pitched to Long good for 87 yards. He had TD runs of 22 and 61 yards before that. His 18-yard pass reception in the third quarter was the Lions’ only score of the second half. Beggio’s punt recovery was the only other score.

“I feel good about the way the team played. I am really happy with their effort in the first half,” England said. “We were a little nervous on the first drive and had a three and out. We punted the ball and did a good job of pinning them at the one. They punted, Zartman blocked it and Beggio fell on it for the first score. That was a good way to start.”

England said he wasn’t sure how to record the stats on the “hitch and pitch” play as he called it. If it goes to Long as a run after the pitch he would have had 200 yards rushing on the night.

“It was a good first outing,” England added. “Especially since we only had two players back with experience. Cleveland had 15-16 seniors, 14 of them with experience. The game helped our guys gain some experience.”

He noted that first-year quarterback Gage Bumgardner completed seven of 10 passes for 150 yards.

He said Corey West had a good night with two pass receptions on offense and two tackles and four assists on defense. He said Andrew Gray had an outstanding night at linebacker and that Joey Beggio played well and had the score.

One area the Lions did not look good at was in the latter part of the game. They gave up three touchdowns, two of them on long runs and one right after another long run. All three of the scores were recorded by Cleveland’s Alex Tracy, runs of 48, 87, and 4 yards.

“I got a little nervous (near the end). I thought Cleveland might score, but didn’t expect them to score on one-play drives. I didn’t want to put the first string back in, but we did want to ensure the win,” he said.

The problem for the Lions was that they had a low turnout this season, and quite a few players with limited playing time.

“We were subbing jayvee kids, some of them without much experience,” the coach said.

Wilsonville next for Lions

The Lions open Northwest Oregon Conference play this next week with powerful Wilsonville.

St. Helens Coach John England doesn’t make too much of the Wildcat’s loss this past week. The team fell to highly-touted 6A Sprague, 30-20.

Wilsonville is ranked as high as third in some 5A classification polls and considered, along with Sherwood to be one of the favorites in the NWOC.

“They have two big backs in (Tanner) Shipley and JohnnyRagin,” England noted. “Shipley rushed for over 200 yards against us last year. They have the big strong backs (returning), but may be a little inexperienced on the line.”

He said Wilsonville would try to pound the ball at St. Helens, but like the Lions will also pass occasionally.

It’s a tough match-up for the young Lions this time, and they’re not looking forward to the drive there. Two years ago St. Helens needed to beat Wilsonville to make the playoffs, but the normal 45-minute drive took 2 ½ hours on a Friday night. The team arrived just before the scheduled kickoff. The kickoff was delayed. The Lions will leave a bit earlier this time.

“We came out out of the game tired and had some cramping, but no major injuries. We have a couple more kids that will become eligible next week. We just want to have everyone healthy and improve on the field.”

Scoring

Cleveland 0 0 6 16—22

St. Helens 13 16 7 0—36

SH—Joey Beggio recovered blocked punt in end zone (Jacob Zartman kick)

SH—Tanner Long 22 run (kick blocked)

SH—Long 61 run (Long run)

SH—Long 87 pass from Gage Bumgardner (Brennan Norton run)

SH—Long 18 pass from Bumgardner (Zartman kick)

C—Alex Tracy 48 run (kick failed)

C—Tracy 87 run (Keagan Hammond run)

C—Tracy 4 run (Hammond run)