KELSO — A furious scramble and a final play was all it took to undo Hudson’s Bay’s comeback.
Kelso won 26-24 with an 11-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play. It left the Eagles exiting the field, tearfully consoling one another with their postseason hopes uncertain.
Bay trailed the entire game leading up to its 14-point fourth quarter. It made defensive stops down the stretch. It broke up near-TD passes in the final minute.
But ultimately, the Eagles came up short.
“It’s heartbreaking when you play 99.9 percent complete game and there’s one little breakdown,” Hudson’s Bay coach Ray Lions said.
A win would have given the Eagles the 3A Greater St. Helens League No. 2 playoff seed.
With the loss, coupled with a Prairie win and Evergreen loss, Bay (6-3, 2-3) will enter a three-team tiebreaker for third place, which will take place on Monday. Kelso (7-2, 4-1) clinches the second seed with the win.
Quadrese Teague scored an eight-yard go-ahead touchdown run with five minutes remaining to give the Eagles their first lead of the game. Then Kelso got the ball with 1:32 left on the Bay 39-yard line, a string of short gains, penalties, foiled attempts at the endzone and discombobulated scrambles ended in a catch and a dive across the goal line as time expired.
On fourth down with no timeouts, Kelso’s final play left Bay’s defense in a mad scramble.
“I had that gut feeling,” junior Carter Morse said. “You don’t have enough time to tell your teammates that it’s coming, and it’s just kind of an instinct.”
And on the final pass, which quarterback A.J. Hoggatt zipped over the middle to John Roberts, who made a dive at the goal line through the clutches of two Bay defenders.
The Kelso bench spilled onto the field with excitement at the final horn. Hudson’s Bay felt Roberts was down before he reached the end zone.
“What’s hard is that it’s a judgement call that’s strictly on the referees and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Lions said. “They’re making that call and it’s frustrating.”
Lions said he was told the team has video footage of the final play that shows the player was down before the goal line. The team plans to submit that footage for further review.
But his focus, he said, is turned to Monday’s playoff.
“Something of course we want to review, but at this point we can’t look backwards,” Lions said. “That’s the way we’ll address the game. Can’t look back to the penalties that were called on us. Can’t look back to the chippy-ness of the game. You look forward to the next thing.”
But the Eagles, many of whom left the field with arms around teammates’ backs, insist there is no giving up.
“We’re not done yet,” Morse said. “We’ve got something to prove.”
Kelso built a lead largely around its run game, featuring Max McDaniel, who had 99 of his 143 yards rushing in the first half. But as the Eagles started to control the Hilander run game, Kelso’s defense also responded.
Linebacker Sklar McQuilliams jumped a route to intercept a screen pass, which he took back 26 yards for a touchdown to put Kelso up 20-10 in the third quarter.
Bay faced fourth and seven on the following drive, when Brian Perez found Morse for 24 yards to put the Eagles inside the 10. Perez scored on a quarterback sneak to bring the score within three.
Then interceptions on consecutive plays gave Bay another chance that it delivered on. Quadrese Teague ran in an eight yard touchdown to give Bay the lead it eventually lost.