Steve Amrine has had memorable victories in his tenure as a high school football coach, but there’s a high probability he’s never been more excited and thrilled than what his Kelso Hilanders accomplished than Friday night at McKenzie Stadium.
What makes the 29-22 overtime victory over Evergreen in the regular-season finale so special is not only what came with it, but how the Hilanders did it: a come-from-behind road win to secure the 3A Greater St. Helens League title outright and a potential home playoff game in Week 10.
The last time Kelso (6-2, 4-0) went unbeaten in league came in 2004 when the Pat Hymes-led Hilanders reached the 3A state semifinals and finished 11-2.
“Gosh, it’s been a long time,” Amrine said postgame.
Kelso outscored Evergreen 22-0 the final 22 minutes of regulation, plus overtime, and its only lead of the game came in overtime.
Quarterback Tucker Amrine hit Zeke Smith for a 13-yard touchdown strike that put Kelso up 29-22. On Evergreen’s ensuing possession, the Plainsmen faced third and 12, and then fourth and 12, but couldn’t connect. Quarterback Khalil Osbin’s fourth-down pass to Jonathan Landry was broken up by Smith to seal the Hilanders’ win.
Kelso’s win also was welcoming news for two other teams that didn’t play at McKenzie Stadium on Friday. The result sets in motion a Kansas tiebreaker between Evergreen, Mountain View and Prairie at 7 p.m. Monday at Camas’ Doc Harris Stadium for the second and final playoff berth to the Week 10 state preliminary round. All three teams finished 2-2 in 3A GSHL play.
Kelso climbed back from deficits of 9-0 and 22-7, and its defense didn’t allow Evergreen (6-3, 3-1) to score in the final 22 minutes of the game and overtime.
“They were more physical early,” Amrine said of Evergreen. “They got after us. … and we challenge our guys at the half. They rose to the occasion and we found some good stuff.”
Some of that good stuff came on both sides of the ball. Kelso rushed for 203 yards, including a game-best 165 yards on 33 carries from Nevada-bound running back Conner Noah. His 2-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third tied the game at 22.
All the momentum was in Evergreen’s favor early in the third quarter when it scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes for a 22-7 advantage 90 seconds into the second half. That came courtesy of Landry (5 catches, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Arthur Ban (2 catches, 71 yards, 1 touchdown).
First came Landry’s second touchdown to open the third quarter, followed by Arthur Ban’s over-the-middle catch for a 40-yard score that got tipped twice — once by a Kelso defender and the other by Ban before eventually catching it. That proved to be Evergreen’s final point, but not its final shot at a win.
With 2:09 remaining in regulation, Evergreen drove down to the Kelso 26 with 4 seconds left, and a potential game-winning 43-yard attempt was blocked and recovered by Kelso to send the game into overtime.
Osbin and Jayden Crace, Evergreen’s quarterbacks, combined to go 10 of 24 passing for 241 yards and three touchdowns.
KELSO 29, EVERGREEN 22 (OT)
Kelso 0 7 15 0 7—29
Evergreen 9 0 13 0 0—22
E — Jonathan Landry 65 pass from Khalil Osbin (kick blocked)
E — Cristian Chavarria 30 FG
K — Conner Noah 2 run (Tate Meade kick)
E —Landry 68 pass from Osbin (2pt PAT failed)
E — Arthur Ban 36 pass from Osbin (Chavarria kick)
K — Noah 1 run (Noah run)
K — Noah 3 run (Meade kick)
K — Zeke Smith 13 pass from Tucker Amrine (Meade kick)
RUSHING — Kelso: Noah 33-165; Judah Calixte 7-50; Amrine 1-1; Naiser Lukas 1-(minus 4); Team 2-(minus 9). Evergreen: LaDaimien McCord 14-95; Crace 7-28; Landry 7-28; Osbin 4-2; Mark Williams Jr. 2-1; Team 1-(minus 5).
PASSING — Kelso: Amrine 9-13-0-64; Evergreen: Osbin 7-15-0-197; Crace 3-9-0-44.
RECEIVING — Kelso: Smith 3-41; Easton Marshall 1-15; Calixte 1-4; Bannick Allen 1-2; Noah 3-2. Evergreen: Landry 5-141; Ban 2-71; Anthony Lamberth II 3-29.