Helix football takes home CIF championship

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Robbie Owens may have known he was taking on one of the most historically successful football programs in San Diego when he stepped up as the head coach of the Helix Highlanders last year, but it is unlikely that he expected to such an eager and determined group of young men who would go on to win the 2017 Open Division Championship in a 26-19 victory over No. 1 Seed Mission Hills. 

Robbie Owens may have known he was taking on one of the most historically successful football programs in San Diego when he stepped up as the head coach of the Helix Highlanders last year, but it is unlikely that he expected to such an eager and determined group of young men who would go on to win the 2017 Open Division Championship in a 26-19 victory over No. 1 Seed Mission Hills. 

The Scotties have had a phenomenal season. With two dozen seniors and a full year with their new coach under their belt, Helix (No. 2) ploughed through conference undefeated. Their preseason was similarly unblemished, save their Honor Bowl game against the Paraclete Spirits in early September — a 23-6 loss in the crushing heat of San Diego’s Indian Summer. 

Their Championship game against Mission Hills on Dec. 2 could not have been more different. With a light fog bank rolling in over Southwestern College’s DeVore Stadium and a chill air nestling onto the field, the Highlanders poised themselves for a the most highly anticipated game of this season’s playoffs. 

Both teams were undefeated in league and lost only one non-conference game. 

“This was kind of the match up everyone was anticipating,” said Owens. “I definitely thought our defense would get some stops and I felt like offensively we would wear them down and we didn’t necessarily do that. They made it difficult.” 

By the end of the first half, Helix was only leading by two points, and those were hard-earned. Despite setbacks in the second half, like star senior wide receiver Rashad Scott’s end zone injury that took him off the field in the third quarter, the Scotties capitalized on their 12-10 lead with two more touchdowns. 

Helix is loaded with senior talent, but it was sophomore running back Elelyon Noa who kept the ball moving upfield all night, scoring three touchdowns and rushing 164 yards on 29 carries. This is Noa’s second championship game. He played for the 2016 title against Cathedral Catholic, replacing his older brother Ezekiel Noa who was on the sidelines with an injury. 

“I can finally say I have an even amount of titles as my brother,” said the younger Noa after contributing to Helix’s claim on the Championship on Saturday night. 

Noa battled his own injury this year and was benched for several weeks before coming back in the last few weeks of the season. 

“He is just like Zeke last year,” said Owens. “That family, they’re the heart and soul of everything that we do. You saw at the end of that game, there was no way we weren’t going to get a first down, he was going to fight for every yard. It tells you what a special player he is.”

Noa is not the only one. The whole team has something unique, Owens said. 

“The biggest thing I keep telling everybody is that we have such a special group,” said Owens. “Last year, obviously, I had a great group, but I was the new guy coming in and these guys [this year] have really accepted me.” 

After the Lancaster Paraclete loss, Owens said, the team pulled themselves together and got focused on the season. They have not lost a game since.

For senior quarterback Carson Baker, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 110 yards against the Grizzlies, winning the Championship felt surreal, he said, especially after having dropped to Cathedral Catholic last year.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, coming out here and getting the win with the guys you’ve been grinding blood, sweat and tears with all season,” he said. “We have 25 seniors and we’re all brothers, we didn’t want this thing to end. We want to come to practice on Monday to see each other, so that brotherhood really keeps us going.”

Helix has possibly two more games left in the season and Owens said, if only for prolonging the inevitable ‘goodbye’ with this team, he wants to play them both. 

“Every week we’ve been in this playoff run,” he said. “We’ve been talking about how we want to play together for one more week. I’ve been telling them for weeks that I love coaching these guys and I don’t want it to end.”