East County powerhouses go head to head in playoffs

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The Helix Highlanders do not like to leave the field early.

A football county legend with multiple standout college and pro athletes to its name, the Highlander football program is racing towards the CIF championship game once again.

But if playoffs were not exciting enough, last Friday, Nov. 9, the boys donning Helix jerseys found themselves facing a familiar foe: Grossmont High School.

The Helix Highlanders do not like to leave the field early.

A football county legend with multiple standout college and pro athletes to its name, the Highlander football program is racing towards the CIF championship game once again.

But if playoffs were not exciting enough, last Friday, Nov. 9, the boys donning Helix jerseys found themselves facing a familiar foe: Grossmont High School.

Long-time rivals, the Highlanders and Foothillers have some of the best season showdowns in East County, drawing hundreds of fans to see who will keep the Musket. Helix has won 27 years in a row.

This year’s game was cut short – though declared a 27-0 victory for the Highlanders – because of lightning.

The only lightning on the field last Friday were Helix junior running backs Elelyon Noa and Delshawn Traylor who helped bring about a 68-7 win over Grossmont in the San Diego Section Division I quarterfinals.

“We wanted to come out and play against our rivals the same way we play against everyone else but it was fun to dominate,” said Traylor, who ran in a 69-yard touchdown. “With the first game, there was all this chatter about if we’d finished they would have come back, but it was definitely nice getting to finish a game.”

Last year, and years past, Helix played in the Open Division, but owing to a contentious season, including a 22-21 loss to Steele Canyon in the final game of the season, the Scotties are now fighting in Division I.

“Us losing the last game of the year against Steele Canyon, it kind of got us refocused,” said Helix head coach Robbie Owens. “I think we got humbled a little bit. I think it would have been tougher playing against Grossmont if we had won against Steele Canyon because we probably would have taken something for granted, but I think our guys did a good job coming out here and playing Helix football.”

Certainly, much of Helix’s success this year is due to Noa, one of a trio of brothers who have been Scottie standouts. In the rematch against the Hillers, Noa completed five scores before the first half, including 76- and 69-yard touchdowns.

“When I moved him up as a freshman, I knew he was going to be a special player for us,” said Owens. “He’s special talent. And I tell everybody, when we line up on offense, we have the best player on the field and I don’t care who we’re playing. He’s going to be the guy who leads us.”

Noa is quick to hand out credit to the rest of the team, and there is plenty to go around.

“We know that anybody who touches the ball can do something special with it,” said Traylor.

Despite the final score, Grossmont did not have a wholly terrible evening. Grossmont sophomore running back Robert Tucker had a 5-yard score on a touchdown drive, and junior receiver Skip Waltower completed three receptions for 68 yards.

Foothiller head coach Tom Karlo said the final score did not reflect the caliber of his team.

“I’ll be honest, for a team like us, with the tempo we run at, if we have a bad night the score’s going to get away from us just because of the amount of plays, so I don’t care about the score,” he said. “Lose by one, lose by sixty, it’s all losses. I just wished we’d had a better game for our seniors. We had a bad game and when you have a bad game in the playoffs, you lose.”

Grossmont has had a tough season on several accounts, and Karlo said he encouraged his team to see what they have actually achieved in making it this far.

“We persevered through a ton of injuries, at one point we had 13 starters out on injuries,” he said. “We were able to win a playoff game against a really tough Madison team. So I tried to talk to the kids about remembering the good of this season.”

With the championships at Southwestern  College just within reach, the Highlanders is not taking anything for granted this year.

“We like to keep ourselves humble,” said Traylor. “We always want to go further than just regular games of the season. After this, we’ll watch the film of this game and then we’ll start focusing on our game against Eastlake.”

Noa said that the team is very aware of the need for discipline at this point in the season.

“We’ve got to take it game by game, play by play,” he said. “We’re always competing.”

It is not just a championship at stake, however. Every game now could be the last game, and for Helix seniors, that is something to fight for, said Owns.

“Once we get to this time, either you win or you go home,” he said. “You want to take advantage of every opportunity you can to get on the field and play.”

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