Philomath freshman CD Nuno catches a 23-yard pass for a touchdown in the second quarter of Friday night's game at Rex Putnam. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

MILWAUKIE — The Philomath High School football team headed north on Friday night to face a Class 5A opponent and piled up more total yards, had a significant advantage in first downs and dominated time of possession. But the Warriors lost the game to Rex Putnam by a score of 48-19.

So what gives?

Penalties, turnovers and the home team’s ability to break big plays all added up to the 29-point victory for the Kingsmen. An official’s inadvertent whistle even stung the Warriors in one of the best play fakes in years.

Still, second-year coach Alex Firth believed the biggest factor in the outcome came down to roster sizes. The 5A Rex Putnam squad was able to pull away in the second half while taking advantage of a Warriors team that could not maintain its level of play.

“We’re going against a 5A program that has 75 kids … so they can platoon kids and we’re just one deep at some positions,” Firth said. “Basically, we get to a point where guys are falling down cramping and limping around and we’re just out of gas. Yeah, we get sloppy and we start making penalties and mistakes. It’s the reality of the numbers.”

As the team huddled together following its second loss in as many weeks, Firth shared that same perspective with his players.

Philomath junior Mason Stearns picks up a chunk of yardage. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“I told them, ‘I’m not going to lie, it was a war of attrition and we just didn’t have enough dudes,’” he said. “So it was not something I’m upset about, you know, and we don’t need to make wholesale changes schematically. It’s just that they had more guys and more fresh bodies late in the game. That’s what happened.”

Rex Putnam (2-0) took advantage of favorable field position in the first quarter to jump out to a 14-0 lead. After recovering a fumble on Philomath’s game-opening possession, the Kingsmen set up at the 38 and scored quickly with junior Jaxon Doyle picking up 19 yards on two carries and then speedy junior Tyler Creswick taking it home on a 19-yard jaunt to the end zone.

The home team’s second TD followed another Philomath mistake with the Warriors turning the ball over on fourth down when a punt attempt didn’t go as planned. A 22-yard loss on the fumbled punt snap gave the Kingsmen the ball at the 20. Three plays later, Doyle was in the end zone.

Philomath got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter with a defensive touchdown. On the play, Rex Putnam senior quarterback Konnor Bickford attempted a dump pass to his right but Warriors senior Ty May intervened for a pick-6 from 12 yards out.

David Griffith takes the handoff from Kaden Muir and looks for room to run behind Giovanni Adelsayed and a host of other Warriors. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

But any momentum from the touchdown quickly deflated on the ensuing kickoff. Putnam’s Creswick showed off his speed again with a 78-yard kickoff return that put the home team up 21-6.

The Warriors then had another setback on their next possession when an official was too quick on his whistle while losing track of the football. On the play, PHS junior quarterback Kaden Muir faked the handoff and sprinted down the left sideline toward the end zone. It’s not certain if he would’ve made it in for a touchdown — the players let up when hearing the whistle — but if not, the Warriors would’ve at least had a first-and-goal situation.

“It’s hard because that’s the first time that he probably pulled the ball in two years and there was no one outside and the official thought the back’s forward progress was stopped,” Firth said. “I can’t blame the official. … I was screaming that my quarterback had the ball but no one was listening to me.”

So instead of six points or at least a first-and-goal, the play didn’t count and Philomath had to repeat the second-and-8. Philomath picked up a first down on a fourth-and-6 but the possession would ultimately end on an interception.

Still, Philomath’s defense followed with a three-and-out and expected to get the ball back with decent field position. On fourth down, the snap sailed high over the punter’s head and rolled into the end zone. Warriors senior Chad Russell was in position to fall on the ball for a touchdown — his first ever.

Chad Russell hands the ball to a game official after scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Rex Putnam’s troubles continued on its next possession when PHS junior Preston Kramer came up with an interception on a long pass attempt. The Warriors marched 74 yards in seven plays and scored on a 23-yard pass from Muir to freshman CD Nuno. The score came with just 19 seconds left in the half on a fourth-and-2.

Philomath had missed the extra point kick on its first TD and then failed on a two-point conversion attempt after the second. On this one, Muir kicked the extra point and Philomath was in the game at 21-18.

A look at the halftime statistics would lead one to believe that Philomath was winning the game. The Warriors had advantages in rushing yards (106 to 55), passing yards (109 to 9), first downs (10 to 3), the top rusher in senior David Griffith (87 yards), the top passer in Muir (6 of 12) and five different receivers catching the ball.

But the Warriors also had 50 yards in penalties to Rex Putnam’s 20 and had made critical mistakes while giving the opponent exceptional field position. Philomath seemed to be capable of pulling out a win at that point in the contest with some positives to build off of going into the second half.

Rex Putnam took control in the early minutes of the third quarter, however, and never looked back. The Kingsmen opened with a 68-yard march in seven plays with the drive ending on a Doyle TD run of four yards. Philomath appeared to be ready to answer on its first second-half possession and did pick up a couple of first downs before the drive broke down and ended with a punt.

Philomath QB Kaden Muir bulls his way forward to pick up a first down. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Three plays later, Rex Putnam went ahead 35-19 when junior James Bauman scored on a 77-yard pass. Philomath’s next possession lasted three plays with Creswick coming away with an interception and scoring from 35 yards on a pick-six.

Just like that, the Warriors trailed 41-19 and could not recover.

Rex Putnam scored its final touchdown on a 52-yard run by Doyle. The Kingsmen started the possession after getting their third interception of the game. Doyle carried the ball five straight times with the last being his TD run.

On the final stat sheet, Philomath had 283 yards of total offense compared to Rex Putnam’s 226. The Warriors had a big time of possession advantage at 34:23 to 13:37 and picked up 17 first downs to the Kingsmen’s 10.

Griffith finished with 102 yards rushing on 20 carries. Muir completed 12 of 25 passes for 160 yards and three interceptions. May had four catches for 70 yards, Kramer finished with four catches for 44 yards and junior Mason Stearns had two receptions for 16 yards.

For Rex Putnam, Doyle had 128 yards on 14 carries.

“We played two 5A teams in the jamboree and Crook County’s in its first year in 4A, but they’ve been a 5A team traditionally to this point,” Firth said about the early portion of the schedule. “We finally get to play next week against a real 4A team. The numbers should be equivalent if we can put the whole game together rather than three quarters or 2-1/2 quarters or whatever we did this week.”

Firth’s referring to Philomath’s Sept. 16 home game against Cottage Grove. The Lions have struggled so far this season with an 0-2 start on back-to-back shutouts — 26-0 to Pleasant Hill and 36-0 to Elmira. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Clemens Field.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.