Defense saves the day in a 20-14 overtime victory

The Rex Putnam Kingsmen showed up big-time on defense and pulled off a 20-14 upset of 15th-ranked Hood River in overtime in a Class 5A football play-in game at Hood River on Friday (Nov. 2).

It was the lowest scoring game of the season for the Eagles (7-3), who entered the contest averaging 36 points a game.

The Kingsmen forced four turnovers and they held the Columbia River Conference champion Eagles to just 208 yards in total offense, nearly 200 yards below their average for nine previous games.

Hood River 165-pound running back Forrest Broddie was held to a net of 64 yards rushing on 25 carries. He entered the game averaging 8.5 yards a carry and 141 yards a game.

“It was one of the best defensive performances by a Rex Putnam football team in a long time,” said Putnam coach Brad Lewman. “I know it was the best defense we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

“Collectively, everybody played well for us,” said Putnam defensive coordinator Hut Calhoun. “We got good play from our backers, and the defensive front played really well.”

The biggest defensive play of the game came with Putnam trailing 14-7 and less than a minute remaining in regulation. The Kingsmen were driving, when they fumbled the ball away. The Eagles punted from their own end zone four plays later, and Brandon Culp blocked the punt, deflecting it out of bounds at the Hood River 11.

Three plays later, Putnam senior quarterback Max Bailey scored from nine yards out. Kingsmen kicker Bella Geist split the uprights on the PAT for the 14-14 tie, and the overtime followed.

After the Kingsmen stopped the Eagles on four downs in the Kansas Plan overtime, Bailey scored from 14 yards out on a quarterback draw, and the Kingsmen celebrated the 20-14 victory.

Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Kingsmen held their hosts scoreless the rest of the way.

Senior free safety Tucker Fleischmann was huge on defense, intercepting two passes and making nine solo tackles.

Calhoun also praised sophomore linebacker Brandon Culp and freshman defensive end Zach Mason for standout play.

“It was Brandon’s first game up from jayvee, and he really stepped it up,” Calhoun said. “He had five tackles and four assists in his first varsity game....

“Zach Mason just played phenomenally — three tackles, one assist, a sack and harassing the quarterback. He had four harasses, which is forcing the quarterback to do what he didn’t want to do. Pretty exceptional play for a freshman.”

The Kingsmen, who had six turnovers of their own, finished with 290 yards in offense on the night. Bailey completed 12-of-31 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted four times. Bailey picked up 30 yards and scored his two touchdowns in nine rushing plays.

Fleischmann excelled on offense, as well as defense, with nine carries for 42 yards and four catches for 67 yards.

Deshawn Stephens rushed seven times for 23 times, and he hauled in five passes for 88 yards. Stephens hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Bailey just before the halftime break to trim an Eagle advantage to 14-7.

Hood River 6-1, 170-pound senior quarterback Luke Kopecky completed 18-of-37 passes for 145 yards.

The Eagles got a big game from punter Eli Fults, who averaged 47 yards on nine punts.

The Kingsmen face another stiff challenge this Friday, when they battled third-ranked Silverton on the road. The Silver Foxes sport a perfect 9-0 record, and they’ve allowed their first nine opponents an average of just 7.5 points an outing.

“It’s going to take another great defensive performance,” Lewman said. “And we’re going to need to do a better job of scoring when we get in the red zone. We were in the red zone five times [at Hood River] and came away with very few points, and a lot of it was because we turned the ball over.”

Lewman said he liked his charges’ chances against the Foxes, if they can cut down on their mistakes.

“Silverton played in a run-first league,” he said. “We throw the ball a whole lot more than we run it, and I think we have better team speed [than Silverton does].”

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