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New turf field doesn't swing the difference for Lions

Though it was the first evening for the St. Helens varsity football team to break in their new home turf field at “Doc” Ackrson Stadium, the Lions couldn’t seem to break through the defensive line of the Liberty Falcons, losing 13-28 Friday evening.

Senior running back Michael Bowen looks for an opening in the defense as Garrett Kust sets a block for him. Falcons senior safty back Chris Steingraber readjusting his route after a blitz on defense.The Lions, now 1-1 after their second bout of the season, faced Hillsboro-based Liberty High School (2-0), which was coming off a 29-19 victory the prior week against Hillsboro High School. Liberty was ranked first prior to the game and continues to hold its position position in 5A league play. St. Helens retained its No. 6 ranking in the 5A league. St. Helens school officials dedicating the new artificial turf football, soccer and track field were (from left) Ron Hernley, Cris Gwilliam, BG Aguirre, Matt Morgan, Wes Bigham, Jack Carter, Neil Johnson, Scot Stockwell, Bill Amos, Melody Killens, Kellie Smith and Jeff Howel. Former St. Helens varsity football coach Wes Bigham cut the ribbon.

The Lions will next face the 11th-ranked Wilsonville Wildcats (2-0) in Wilsonville, Friday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. The Wildcats pounded their most recent opponent, No. 22-ranked Sandy High School, by a score of 53-3 in week two.

To open the night, past and present members of the St. Helens School Board commemorated the newly finished artificial turf field with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Former St. Helens varsity football head coach Wes Bigham, who led the Lions to four state championship victories, cut the ribbon.

Liberty had first possession and opened with an offensive set that ended with a run by senior running back Devin Kaneshiro for an 18-yard touchdown play.

Although Liberty’s offense was efficient, it was the unrelenting defense that stumped the Lions to start the game. St. Helens was held to a total 34 rushing and 129 receiving yards

The Lions first two plays resulted in fumbles by junior quarterback Levi Norton. St. Helens recovered both for consecutive losses.

The Falcons' smothering defense shut out St. Helens in the first half, while their offense successfully pounded the ball through the Lion’s end-zone three times to finish the half 21-0.SPOTLIGHT NEWS PHOTOS: JOSH BRODY - Junior running back Austin Dragoo meets the heavy hitting shoulder of Falcons safty back Chris Steingraber. Dragoo scored one of the two touchdowns by St. Helens on the night.

“They’re an outstanding defensive football team," said St. Helens head coach Cory Young. "Their speed up front, and their ability to follow the football, is outstanding.”

Lions senior wide receiver Bryce Bumgardener finished the night with four receptions for 45 yards. He said he was disappointed with his performance.

“My hands weren’t as good as they should have been," Bumgardener said after the game. "I have to make the corrections to improve my coordination to help my team.”

In the third quarter, Liberty leveraged their ground game and routinely pushed the ball up the field. Their effort resulted in the only score of the quarter which, despite the drive on the ground, came at the hands of a successful 29-yard pass for a touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, however, the Falcons defense started to show signs of weakness on the outside, which Norton was quickly able to exploit with a 14-yard pass to junior receiver Matt Anderson.

“The way they were playing their corners off, they gave us some soft coverage on the outside and we could take advantage of that,” Young said.

After a successful PAT, Lions junior kicker Jacob Hawkins returned an onside kick and junior Garrett Kust gained possession for St. Helens.

Although the Lions couldn’t capitalize on that drive, the Lions' defense forced the Falcons to punt, and Falcons punter Chris Schramm stumbled and was tackled on the 5-yard line.Senior running back Michael Bowen looks for an opening in the defense as Garrett Kust sets a block for him. Falcons senior safty back Chris Steingraber readjusting his route after a blitz on defense.

The defensive stop led to a Lions offensive touchdown. After a missed field goal, however, and another unsuccessful offensive set by the Falcons, the clock expired with the final score set at13-28.

Regardless of the loss, Young said he was impressed with how the team continued to push forward.

“During the second half, nobody quit," he said. "We kept fighting and kept fighting."St. Helens defenders dog pile on Falcons CJ Clark after he attemts to break free in an open field. St. Helens had two sacks on the night.

Liberty: 14-7-7-0 28

St. Helens: 0-0-0-13 13

Scoring Summary

First Quarter:

L- Devin Kaneshiro 18 run (Chris Schramm kick) 9:19

L- Charles Clark 41 pass by Blake Walker (Schramm kick) 3:45

Second Quarter:

L- Koborsi Yoursef 3 run (Schramm kick) 7:11

Third Quarter:

L- Clark 29 pass by Walker (Shramm kick) 2:22

Fourth Quarter:

SH- Matt Anderson 14 pass by Levi Norton (Jacob Hawkins kick) 10:12

SH- Austin Dagroo 1 pass by Norton (Hawkins failed kick) 7:04