One can only give the other team so many chances.
Time and time again on Friday night, the Rex Putnam Kingsmen had a chance to tie their game with Hood River Valley.
Time and time again the Hood River Valley defense held and Lady Luck seemed to be actively cheering on the Eagles.
Unfortunately for HRV, Lady Luck apparently headed for the exit with under a minute to go in the game.
The Eagles gave up a game-tying touchdown with 29 seconds to play in regulation and then gave up the game-winner in overtime for a 20-14 loss that brings HRV’s season to an end one step short of the state playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Following a blocked punt with 45 seconds left, the Eagle defense was tasked with making yet another stand deep in their own territory as the Kingsmen started from the 10-yard line.
They almost did it, but on third and goal from the nine, Putnam quarterback Max Bailey took off up the middle, dragging a pair of Eagle defenders into the end zone for the tying touchdown.
After the Eagle offense couldn’t score on the first overtime possession, he repeated the feat, scrambling to score on a 14-yard run to give the Kingsmen a walk-off win.
Both offenses were missing in action for most of the second half, with defensive stops occasionally approaching incredulity.
“That’s a good question,” said HRV coach Caleb Sperry when asked what happened to the team’s offense in the second half. “We just couldn’t get our running game and then when you become predictable you get into a lot of third and longs.”
HRV managed just 208 net yards of offense, converted just three of 21 third down attempts in the game, and had the ball for just 8:21 of the second half.
The Eagles forced six turnovers, including four interceptions of Rex Putnam QB Max Bailey.
HRV converted none of them into points.
After leading 14-7 at halftime, the Eagles saw numerous opportunities to put the game away go to waste in the second half.
Late in the third quarter Kyle Beam got his third interception of the night.
On the very next play the Kingsmen’s Kyle Fleishmann stepped in front of a Luke Kopecky pass and returned it to the HRV 20-yard line.
By the time the quarter ended the Kingsmen were looking at second and goal at the two-yard line.
Less than a minute into the fourth quarter they faced a fourth and 22 after a false start, incomplete pass and offensive pass interference penalty backed them up 22 yards.
They wound up turning the ball over on downs.
Later in the fourth Beam came up with another big play, returning a punt to the Putnam 30-yard line with 8:30 to play.
The Eagles could do nothing with the excellent field position, gaining three yards on four plays and turning the ball over on downs.
The Eagles intercepted Bailey again on the ensuing Putnam drive, but Alex Jimenez fumbled on the return, giving Putnam the ball back at the HRV 34-yard line.
The Kingsmen were still unable to score, as Fleischman fumbled the ball away at the HRV 10.
The Eagles, given the opportunity to bleed precious time off the clock, instead gave the Kingsmen the ball back on the next play, with a lineman stepping in front of a Kopecky shovel pass at the 10-yard line with 4:37 to play.
The Eagle defense came up with yet another huge stop, allowing Putnam to gain only five yards before turning the ball over on downs with 2:55 left.
The Eagles needed just a first down, and would be able to run the clock out almost completely.
Instead the Eagles managed only three yards on two rushing plays before an incomplete pass stopped the clock for Putnam.
Rex Putnam sent the house on the ensuing punt attempt, blocking it and getting the ball back at the 10-yard line, setting the stage for Bailey’s closing heroics.
Despite being tired from having to go back out on the field again and again, Sperry said the HRV defense was in high spirits as it tried for a goal line stand at the end of regulation.
“They were excited for the opportunity,” he said. “When your back is against the wall you have to be like that.”
Early in the game it appeared HRV would dispatch Rex Putnam in fairly pedestrian fashion.
The Eagles scored on their second possession of the game when they quickly covered 46 yards and scored on a six-yard pass from Kopecky to Parker Young.
They had a chance to widen the lead on their next possession, but turned the ball over on downs at the Putnam seven-yard line.
They did manage to make it a two-touchdown lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter when Kopecky connected with Wyatt Webber on a fake punt for a 42-yard gain to the one-yard line.
Forrest Broddie, playing despite not being fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered in the team’s regular season finale, then punched it in from a yard out.
After that though, the Eagle offense could not mount much of an attack for the rest of the night.
The team now heads into an offseason where it will graduate its quarterback, top running back, fullback, top two wide receivers and the bulk of a strong defensive and offensive lines.
The Eagles will take another crack next year to try and get to the state playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“We’ve just got to keep swinging it,” Sperry said. “We’re doing great things. I like where we’re at and what we’re coaching.”