Saints march out of 2007 season on winning note

The Saints 13-12 victory against the Renton Ravens was a portrait of sheer determination. A good deal of improvisational skills were required too, as several key players and even coaches were absent from the sidelines.

Assistant coach Les Archer stepped in to the head coaching spot and two-way star Marvin Bronson took over as the defensive coordinator.

Since last Saturday’s game was a battle of teams with no postseason possibilities, many of the Saints chose to attend to family issues, prompting the organizational scramble.

Head coach John Corey was with family in Alaska and team owner Michael Murray was responding to a family emergency in Florida. Murray’s absence was a double whammie, since he’s an anchor on the offensive line who has been out with an injury, and he had taken over the head coaching duties the week before. Despite the switches, the Saints played as though the game meant everything.

Losing three fumbles and giving up a 100-yard interception return, the team had many opportunities to quit, but finally took the lead with just more than 10 minutes remaining in the game when Brandon Pedersen ran in a quarterback keeper for a touchdown and Nick Oberstoff booted the game winning extra point.

“I was happy with our special teams,” Archer said, “and especially with the way our defense kept hanging in there. They really gave the offense time to persevere and come through.”

On offense Bronson was forced to step in as the center and tight end Rollis Talalemotu moved in to the interior of the line from his usual tight end slot. Making matters worse, Pedersen missed several series behind center, suffering a knee injury early in the second quarter. With Pedersen on ice and Bronson snapping the ball, wide receiver Ramon Martinez had to take over a significant portion of the quarterbacking duties.

With all those crucial switches, it isn’t so surprising the Saints’ three lost fumbles were all on mishandled exchanges between the center and quarterback. Two of those errors kept the ball deep in the Saints end of the field for much of the first half, and led to a Renton touchdown with 1:13 remaining in the second period.

Linebacker-turned-kick returner Alvin Reaux put the Saints in good field position with a run past midfield on the ensuing kickoff. Pederson completed a pair of key passes to Martinez on the quick drive, one of which set up a first down on the 15-yard line with 42 seconds remaining. Martinez went back behind center again and hooked up with Justin Kelley in the corner of the end zone for a tying touchdown over two Raven defenders.

The Saints looked to be ready to take the lead on their first possession of the second half when Zach Hassilev hauled in a 45-yard reception to the Renton 25, then pulled in another Martinez pass for a first down at the 4. What looked like a touchdown reception by Keon Hamlett was waved off on a West Sound penalty and a field goal attempt was blocked. But the Saints were granted yet another chance when the Ravens were flagged for roughing the kicker.

On the next play, Martinez rolled left on a play-action option and flipped a toss toward the end zone as he approached the line of scrimmage. Renton’s Melvin Jenkins wrestled the ball away from a Saints receiver on the goal line and took it back all the way for what could have been a crushing score. The Raven’s point-after attempt hit the left upright and bounced wide, opening the door for the Saints.

The Saints struck back on their next possession, with Pederson hooking up with Kelley on some big plays and Shaun Donnelly holding on after taking a vicious hit on a completion to the 6-inch line. Pederson went off left tackle for the winning score the next play.

Bronson finally hit the field on defense on the last series and helped stop the Ravens at the Saints 19 to end the threat, allowing the Saints to run out the clock by taking a knee three times.

“We got to play a lot of young guys,” Archer said. “They were eager to do well and play hard. They never gave up. Hopefully that attitude will carry over into next year.”

This year is over early, since the Saints will pick up a forfeit victory, 35-0 against the Multnomah County Buccaneers next Saturday.

West Sound will end at 3-7 on the year, but things could easily have been much better. If the three blow-out losses to the league’s top two teams are thrown out, the Saints out-scored their opponents 103 to 100 in the six other contested games, where they went 2-4. The team’s best win of the year was a 37-10 win over the Willamette Valley Raiders in the third week, and the Raiders will be playing the Pierce County Bengals for the last playoff spot.

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