Helix once again tops the charts in East County prep football ranking

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The South County passing tournament, hosted in mid-July by Southwestern College’s football program, traditionally wraps up summer workouts for high school teams in the region. The Helix Highlanders ended the summer with a phenomenal 34-1 record to welcome new head coach Robbie Owens to the program.

“When you come into a program that has been as successful as the one at Helix, you don’t want to change anything, you just want to add to it,” Owens explained.

The South County passing tournament, hosted in mid-July by Southwestern College’s football program, traditionally wraps up summer workouts for high school teams in the region. The Helix Highlanders ended the summer with a phenomenal 34-1 record to welcome new head coach Robbie Owens to the program.

“When you come into a program that has been as successful as the one at Helix, you don’t want to change anything, you just want to add to it,” Owens explained.

Helix is no stranger to championships whether at the league, section or state level. The Scotties defeated St. Augustine, 44-30, last year to secure the section’s Open Division title in an offensive slugfest in front of a standing room crowd estimated at more than 8,000 at Chula Vista’s Southwestern College.

“We want to continue the great tradition that has been established at Helix,” Owens reiterated. “We’d like to have another championship year.”

The Highlanders participated in five passing tournaments over the summer and won four of them. Their lone loss was to a team from Arizona.

Owens replaces Troy Starr as Helix head coach. Starr resigned at the end of last season due to non-football reasons. During his eight seasons with the Highlanders, Starr posted an 83-18-1 record, won two CIF titles and one state bowl championship.

Owens hails from Colorado where he was a longtime football coach at Grand Junction. During his eight years there, his teams were 47-38-1, all at the Class 5A level. 

“Football is football,” Owens explained. “There’s a lot of fundamentals that don’t change.”

Owens is known as an offensive innovator, especially with the no-huddle power pistol offense.

The Highlanders generated a lot of offense last year, spearheaded by Nate Stinson, who rushed for 1,714 yards and scored 32 touchdowns (31 rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown). In a superlative individual performance, Stinson racked up 322 all-purpose yards and scored five touchdowns in the CIF championship game victory over St. Augustine.

Stinson, who is now attending Northern Arizona University, finished the 2015 season with 1,820 all-purpose yards. He averaged 143 yards per game and 9.5 yards per carry.

Top returners this year include senior middle linebacker Ezekiel Noa, junior quarterback Carson Baker, two-way senior standout Scottie Young, junior receiver Rashad Scott, senior lineman Blayke Taeatafa de la Rosa, senior defensive back Evan Perkins, senior running back Kameron Tiumalu and tight end Jaylen Arnold.

Noa led the Scotties in 2015 with 92 tackles, 9.5 sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery. He secured last year’s CIF championship victory with an interception late in the game against St. Augustine.

Noa also scored five touchdowns last season – three on pass receptions and two on interception returns.

Scott had four picks and two fumble recoveries on defense.

Baker served as a back up last year to Michael Austin, who threw for 1,725 yards and 18 touchdowns and also rushed for 397 yards and eight touchdowns. In five game appearances, Baker completed 21 of 34 passing attempts for six touchdowns without an interception.

Helix once again features a challenging regular season schedule. The Scotties kick off the 2016 season with a home field match-up against Utah’s Provo Timpview Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. The Highlanders then travel to Mission Viejo High School to take on Concord Clayton Valley Charter in another non-league game on Sept. 3 before returning to San Diego County to take on Eastlake in another road game on Sept. 9.

Helix will play five non-league games this season and five league games.

The Highlanders play Sept. 16 at Cathedral Catholic and host Bonita Vista, last year’s Division III section champion, on Sept. 30.

The Scotties kick off Grossmont Hills League play on Oct. 7 with a home game against Steele Canyon, followed by games Oct. 14 at El Capitan and Oct. 21 at West Hills and home games Oct. 28 against Grossmont and Nov. 4 against Valhalla.

The San Diego Section finals will be held for the third consecutive year at Southwestern College. If the team’s past track record is any indicator, expect Helix to be there.

Extra points

Helix defeated St. Augustine, 35-21, in a rematch of last year’s Open Division final in the championship game of the South County passing tournament.

Helix defeated Steele Canyon in the semifinals while St. Augustine defeated Valhalla.

Fifth-year Steele Canyon head coach Scott Longerbone thought it was noteworthy that three of the four teams in the semifinals were from the Grossmont Hills League.

Indeed, success by East County teams was particularly notable at the SWC event. In the consolation championship game, Christian defeated West Hills 26-7.

Christian received touchdowns from four players in its consolation championship game victory against West Hills: Garret Nielsen, Ben Goodwin, Ethan Contreras and Joey Morones.

Senior Jovan Bea scored the Wolf Pack’s lone touchdown in the loss to Christian. The Patriots, guided by quarterback Bradley Jeremiah, led 13-0 at halftime.

Senior Brett Braunsdorf caught three touchdown passes from West Hills’ junior quarterback Hayden Roach in a semifinal win over Otay Ranch while Tyler Wilson recorded two interceptions.

This is Casey Ash’s seventh season as Wolf Pack head coach. He lists top returners as senior offensive lineman Zach Weaver, Bea and Braunsdorf, senior receiver Mitchell Carlin, senior middle linebacker Tanner Sutton and senior nose guard Oscar Morales.

Ash is hoping his 2016 squad can better last season’s 5-6 mark. 

The Wolf Pack kicks off its season with an Aug. 26 non-league game at Southwest El Centro, then ventures to cross-town rival Santana in the teams’ annual Mayors Cup trophy game on Sept. 2.

Steele Canyon’s top returners this year include junior tight end Mikel Oliver, senior strong safety Colton Larceval, senior offensive linemen Kyree Wood and Sean Miller, and senior running back Sean Todd.

The Cougars, who finished 8-5 last season with a berth in the Division I semifinals, kicks off the 2016 season with road games at Torrey Pines (Aug. 26) and Madison (Sept. 2) before hosting Granite Hills on Sept. 9.

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