Eldred's last-second catch gives St. Helens first-round state win over Hermiston
St. Helens wins 12-7 in its first home state playoff game since 1999
The No. 7 Lions hope Ben Eldred's first catch of the year will not be their last touchdown.
The 6-foot-2 senior wide receiver's four-yard catch against 6-foot-1 Hermiston junior defensive back Tyler Rohrman with 16.3 seconds left helped St. Helens survive 12-7 in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Friday, Nov. 4, at Doc Ackerson Stadium.
"I was confident in my team's ability to execute," said Norton, a senior quarterback. "The play isn't drawn up for any specific person, it's a read play above all."
The Lions (8-2) celebrated their first first-round win since they won the Class 3A championship in 1996.
"That play was not drawn up, it was just a really good football play by [Norton] and Ben and the rest of the team," said senior defensive end Brayden Garver of Eldred's heroics against the 10th-ranked Bulldogs' third-ranked defense. "It was tense because we knew that if we didn't score, our senior season is done for, and we aren't close to being done."
Myles Terry could not pull in Norton's two-point pass as he crossed to the right of the end zone, but Colton Beisley tipped Hermiston sophomore quarterback Andrew James' pass over the middle from the Bulldog 29 moments later as time expired on their desperation drive.
"I'd say we were more excited than tense when we got inside the 10," St. Helens coach Cory Young said. "Converting those two fourth downs gave us a lot of momentum: We had great play calls and the quarterback made a perfect throw. It was designed to go to whoever was open, he liked the matchup with Ben and Ben made a heck of a play."
The Lions are into its first state quarterfinal since 1996 and will have the second chance it dreamed of on the road against second-ranked Northwest Oregon Conference rival Wilsonville (9-1) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
The hometown Wildcats beat St. Helens 23-14 in the early showdown on Sept. 23 at Randall Stadium.
The 10th-ranked Bulldogs (5-5) led 7-0 through three quarters after Jacob Hawkins pushed a second-quarter field goal wide right from the Hermiston 20-yard line and Bulldogs junior running back Peter Earl ran two yards for a touchdown with 8:24 left to halftime.
Norton launched a deep pass from the Hermiston 35 with three receivers in the right of the end zone and 5.9 seconds left to the break, but Bulldog junior defensive back Joe Gutierrez leapt to intercept it in traffic at the goal line and returned it to midfield.
Dylan Brady's eight-yard run seemed to be the tying score with 9:45 left in the game, but Hermiston crashed the middle and swatted Hawkins' extra-point attempt.
James hit 6-foot-1 junior wide receiver Dayshawn Neal for 10 yards and a first down on 3rd-and-9 at the Bulldog 39, but Garver's three-yard tackle-for-loss on 3rd-and-2 at the Lions 31 with 5:40 to play was just what St. Helens needed.
Haidon Allen tipped away James' pass for Rohrman at the right hash on 4th-and-5 and the Lions had one last chance at 4:48.
"It was a huge play for the entire defense," said Garver, who stands 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds. "I can't take full accountability because without the rest of the 'd' line and backs filling their gaps, I wouldn't have had such a good chance. I was playing ball."
Terry caught a 10-yard 4th-and-9 pass from Norton at the Hermiston 43 with 1:40, and Allen went uncovered in the left flat to the Bulldog 9 on 4th-and-3 at 1:16.
"All I was thinking was, 'If I don't do my job, this could be my last high school football game,'" said Allen, a senior running back/safety. "Shout out to Ben for his first catch ever and coming clutch."
Norton faked a spike as the Lions hurried to the line, and Eldred's catch was the go-ahead they sorely needed.
"That 4th-and-9 catch by Myles was pretty amazing in the last drive," said Brady, a 6-foot senior running back/linebacker. "I don't think the fake spike pass was drawn up for Ben, but he had a good matchup and made a great catch."
Norton completed 10 of 13 passes for 102 yards.
Tyler Rea ran for 106 yards on 14 carries, and Terry went 99 yards on 17 attempts as the Lions out-rushed Hermiston 230-81.
Allen caught five passes for 56 yards and led the defense with six tackles.
James and 6-foot-1 junior wideout Neal combined for 5-of-14 passing with 89 yards, and Hermiston rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries.
The Bulldogs succeeded on one third-down attempt in six tries, but St. Helens was 5-of-12.
St. Helens 12, Hermiston 7
H 0 7 0 0 7
SH 0 0 0 12 12
H Peter Earl 2-yard run (PAT good), 8:24
SH Dylan Brady 8-yard run (Jacob Hawkins PAT blocked), 9:45
SH Ben Eldred 4-yard catch from Levi Norton (2-point pass failed), 16.3