Steiger, Wilsonville dash Lions' state semifinal dreams
Senior wide receiver's touchdown catch with 47.3 seconds left clips St. Helens' first quarterfinal run in 20 years
Myles Terry's four-yard touchdown catch was the Lions' go-ahead with 2:49 left, but Harrison Steiger's grab was the clincher.
The 6-foot-3 Wilsonville senior wide receiver's six-yard catch on a slant from the right with 47.3 seconds to go lifted the No. 2 Wildcats to a 38-35 Class 5A state quarterfinal win on Friday, Nov. 11, at Randall Stadium.
Tyler Rea ran for three touchdowns and Jax Ogle burst for another as seventh-ranked St. Helens (8-3 overall) led 28-6 at halftime, but Steiger's score capped a 90-yard comeback drive that began with 2:30 left.
Terry went uncovered in the flat and put Wilsonville (10-1) in 35-31 peril, but Steiger caught passes for first downs at his own 39-yard-line and at the Lions' 22 before his finisher.
"We wanted to keep everything in front of us in our quarters coverage look," St. Helens coach Cory Young said. "We also had a designed pressure, which had worked previously."
The Lions held the Wildcats to two third-down conversions in 10 tries, but Wilsonville came up 4-of-5 on fourth downs.
St. Helens reached midfield and pitched the ball side-to-side with 9.4 seconds left, but Wildcats junior Austin Kness recovered the fourth lateral as time expired.
"You have witnessed the best game ever here tonight," Wilsonville announcer John Ludlow said.
The Wildcats band played the "Rocky" theme after its players went quietly into halftime, but Wilsonville pulled off against St. Helens what it could not do against Springfield's five-touchdown lead in the same round two years ago yet managed against Liberty in the quarterfinals last year.
Wilsonville also held onto to a 23-14 home win on Sept. 23 that Rea and Terry missed with respective anterior cruciate ligament and labrum tears, and have taken eight in a row from the Lions.
The Northwest Oregon Conference runner-up chases its first state championship since its 2004 Class 3A title as it faces 11th-ranked Mid-Willamette Conference fourth seed Central at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.
St. Helens opened the game with an onside kick and recovered it at its own 48, but only gained a yard and punted.
The Wildcats loaded the box, but Rea broke a two-yard touchdown on the Lions' next drive for a 7-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
Kness answered with a field goal and the margin was 7-3 to start the second.
Ogle bolted 20 yards to the right pylon for a score, Haidon Allen intercepted a tipped pass in front of his sideline at the Wilsonville 31 and Rea's 11-yard touchdown run up the middle had St. Helens up 21-3 with 8:56 to halftime.
Wildcats sophomore running back Trevor Antonson zipped up the middle for a first down on 4th-and-2 and 6-foot-3 senior quarterback Connor Neville ran for just enough on 4th-and-2, but St. Helens held Wilsonville to a Kness field goal and led 21-6 with 2:52 to the break.
Allen returned the following kickoff to the Wildcats 31, Terry caught a 4th-and-8 pass from Levi Norton for a new set of downs and Rea's three-yard run put the Lions up 28-6 at intermission.
Neville, a reigning Northwest Oregon Player of the Year and a Washington State University commit, lit the rally fire with an 18-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Andrew Merrick in the right corner of the end zone on 4th-and-5 for a slimmer 28-13 deficit with 5:59 in the third.
Neville also scrambled and reached over the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown up the middle to trail 28-20 with 3:25.
Allen stretched a catch to the Wildcats 40, but Wilsonville senior defensive back Tharren Blood picked Norton and returned it 60 yards down his sideline for a touchdown to silence the St. Helens crowd. The Wildcats passed for an extra two and the game was tied at 28-28 with 11:46 to play.
Kness knocked a field goal through and Wilsonville seized its first lead at 31-28 with 9:08 left.
Wildcats sophomore linebacker Jonah Gomez picked Norton at the Lions 24, but Wilsonville fumbled right back at its own 11 with 7:02.
Ever the opportunist, Allen sprinted to the 18, St. Helens drew Wilsonville offside for a 1st-and-goal at the 5 and Terry scored.
Dragoo, Brady and Colton Albertson sacked Neville at his own 10 with two minutes left, but Steiger was not to be denied.
"I'm proud of every single one of you guys," said Allen, who caught two passes for 59 yards and led the defense with eight tackles.
Norton completed nine of 15 passes for 127 yards, Rea ran for 118 yards on 18 carries and Terry turned four receptions into 45 yards.
The Lions converted five of 12 third downs as they outrushed Wilsonville 248-204.
Neville went 19-of-37 for 221 yards.
The Wildcats' rally can't steal St. Helens' shine: With 25 seniors, the Lions reached their first quarterfinals since they won their second Class 3A state championship 20 years ago.
Wilsonville's 39 points per game remains the best in the state, and St. Helens averaged 33. The Lions' defense (17 points allowed per) was their best in two decades and second only to the Wildcats' (16).
"I love all you guys," said Levi Norton, a senior quarterback. "Great season."
St. Helens is 14-7 overall and 10-5 in the Northwest Oregon with back-to-back state appearances since Cory Young took over as head coach last year after 13 years in the program.
The Lions beat Scappoose in the Seven-Mile War, upset sixth-ranked conference champion Sandy in the regular-season finale and beat 10th-ranked Hermiston in the first round.
They'd gone 31-67 in all and 16-60 in league play with a first-round state appearance in the 11 prior years.
"This is a different group of guys," said Brayden Garver, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound senior offensive tackle/defensive end, of his breakout class.
Norton and Tucker Mosley (quarterbacks), Rea, Ogle, Brady, Terry, Allen and Dragoo (running backs), Blake Pellham, Angel Gonzales, Ben Eldred, Jacob Donovan, Casey Zweigart, Nick Ramos and Cody Haag (wide receivers), Albertson, Garver, Chase Nelson, Zach Gadbois, Kevin Johnson, Miguel Olmedo and Michael Brame (linemen) and Jacob Hawkins (a kicker) are set to graduate in the spring.
Chase Parkhurst (a quarterback), Cody Leanna (a running back), Dylan Kessinger (a wide receiver), Robert Landreth, Liam Tindall, Randy Ridgeway, Zach Hester and Caleb Carter (linemen) are next year's seniors.
Connor Koelzer, Alex Cross, Shawn Lee, Leif Nelson, Kruze Katzenmeyer and Isaiah Bettencourt (running backs), Jacob Klein (a tight end), Daniel Suon, Trevor Cissney and Benjamin Torres (linemen) are upcoming juniors.
Parker Cotthoff (a running back), Aiden Finch, Ryan Burri and Jayden Smith (linemen) will be sophomores.
"I was very lucky to have the opportunity to coach this group of young men," Young said. "I am excited to see the growth in our program from our freshmen to our seniors."
Wilsonville 38, St. Helens 35
SH 7 21 0 7 35
W 3 3 14 18 38
SH Tyler Rea 2-yard run (Jacob Hawkins PAT), 4:43
W Austin Kness field goal, 1:20
SH Jax Ogle 20-yard run (Hawkins PAT), 10:09
SH Rea 11-yard run (Hawkins PAT), 8:56
W Kness field goal, 2:55
SH Rea 3-yard run (Hawkins PAT), :15
W Andrew Merrick 18-yard pass from Connor Neville (Kness PAT), 5:59
W Neville 1-yard run (Kness PAT), 3:25
W Tharren Blood 60-yard interception return (Kness PAT), 11:46
W Kness field goal, 9:08
SH Myles Terry 4-yard run (Hawkins PAT), 2:49
W Harrison Steiger 6-yard catch from Neville (Kness PAT), :47.3