The San Diego CIF Open Division champion Helix Highlanders will host a CIF State Southern Californian Regional Division I-AA playoff bowl game against Southern Section Division 2 champ Sierra Canyon on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Benton Hart Stadium.
Helix (11-1) is riding a 10-game winning streak into the contest following its 28-21 county title win over Carlsbad on Nov 22, which means the Scotties will be the only one of the two teams coming into the game off a bye. The Highlanders rightfully finished as the unanimous No. 1-ranked team in the final San Diego County media poll that was released on Tuesday.
The Trailblazers, meanwhile, are coming to La Mesa with an 11-game win string following their 35-7 section championship game victory over Chaminade last Friday. Sierra Canyon was the Gold Coast League champs for the second consecutive season.
The winner of the bowl matchup will face either Central High (13-0), of Fresno, or Oak Ridge (10-2), of El Dorado Hills, in the CIF Division I-AA State Championship Bowl at Cerritos College on Friday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m.
The I-AA Division is the second-highest tier of postseason competition in the CIF. The state’s Open Division championship features California superpowers De La Salle (12-1) and St. John Bosco (12-1) in an already determined elite division state title game on Dec. 14.
Sierra Canyon junior quarterback Chayden Peery has thrown for 2,885 yards this season (206 yards-per-game) and 17 touchdowns with just one interception.
Senior wide receiver D.J. Harvey has 74 receptions for 1,332 yards and six touchdowns this season, while junior Donovan Williams also has six touchdown receptions this season for SCHS.
Trailblazer junior running back J.D. Sumlin has rushed for over 800 yards and 12 touchdowns this season but the team also had two other backs who have rushed for over 600 yards this season, and another that has cashed in on eight of SC’s 35 rushing touchdowns.
Perhaps more impressively than the Trailblazers’ offensive success is the numbers put up by the Sierra Canyon defensive unit, which recorded 59 sacks this season, including 12 each by senior Zach Thannum and sophomore Caden Harman.
But the Highlanders have an offense that doesn’t take up much time in a conventional pocket. Helix looks to get the ball into the hands of its playmakers quickly, letting their speed players do the work.
Helix sophomore running back Christian Washington is already on a career path to be one of the best backs the program has ever produced. Starting in place of injured record-setting superstar Elelyon Noa, who suffered a season-ending foot injury just six games into the season, Washington has been nearly his equal, rushing for over 1,110 yards (8.0 yards-per-carry) and 15 touchdowns.
If you molded the duo into one Helix superback, the pair have combined for nearly 2,200 yards on the ground and 26 rushing touchdowns.
But Helix has another back with similar production in Army-bound senior Delshawn Traylor, who has rushed for over 500 yards and seven touchdowns. Like the other backs, Traylor also averages over eight yards-per-carry.
Highlander senior receiver Keionte Scott is the team’s other major offensive threat with 36 receptions for 563 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Helix senior receivers Timothy Christopher and Jahari Hill both have three touchdown receptions on the year.
The man responsible for getting the ball to the wideouts was a man who maybe was without a plan before the season started.
Senior Kamryn Brown went from a preseason scout team quarterback to the team’s starter just one week before the start of the regular season.
The move proved to work wonders for masterful head coach Robbie Owens, who guided the Scotties to their third Open Division championship – and second under Owens – since the division’s inception in 2013.
While not a dominating commodity behind center, Brown has been the playmaker the Highlanders have needed, throwing for over 1,400 yards (over 15 yards-per-completion) and 16 touchdowns.
Brown’s production may subtly determine Helix’s chances in the state division semifinal against the ‘Blazers since more than just a run-heavy game may be needed against a similarly elite opponent.
Helix has the necessary components on defense to neutralize Sierra Canyon’s terrific offense.
The Highlanders have 12 interceptions this season, led by Scott’s four.
Helix senior Jeremiah Fletcher has recovered three fumbles, forced two fumbles and has an interception, while senior John Carroll, who had a pair of interceptions this season, was a sure candidate for county defensive player of the year.
The Trailblazers enter the game as the ninth-ranked team in the state while the Highlanders are tenth, however, the Highlanders were awarded the home-field advantage.
The teams had a common opponent this season in Oaks Christian, of Westlake Village.
The Highlanders defeated Oaks Christian 42-17, while Sierra Canyon fell to Oaks Christian, 21-14, for its only loss of the season.
SERRA 37, SANTANA 7
The Sultans appeared to tie the game on the final play of the first half of last Friday’s San Diego Section CIF Division IV championship game when senior Randy Smith made a spectacular diving catch in the back of the end zone against double coverage on a Hail Mary heave by senior Nathan Temple as time expired.
But a holding call negated the result, sending top-seeded Santana to the locker room with a manageable 12-7 deficit against the No. 2-seeded Conquistadors.
However, in the second half, Serra’s terror on the defensive front proved their mastery in the contest, finishing with a section title-game record 10 sacks to demoralize the Sultans and limit their own record-setting offense.
Temple still managed over 200 yards through the air by somehow finding the time to get off 31 passes (completing 21). But he would finish with minus-37 yards rushing due to being chased from the outset of nearly every snap.
With Santana trailing 12-0, senior Nick Valentine stole the momentum momentarily for Santana late in the second quarter with an interception.
A couple of plays later, Temple connected with junior Dean Landers on a 27-yard pass down to the 1 where senior running back Brooks Moutaw crashed in on the next play for a touchdown with two minutes to go before halftime.
Junior Jared Forster had eight receptions for 61 yards to lead the Sutlans, while Landers had four catches for 56 yards and sophomore Ethan Wright continued his strong finish to the season, grabbing four balls for 34 yards.
Senior Michael Richter had 13 tackles to lead the defense. Richter finished with a Santana school-record 19 1/2 sacks this season.
Senior Nathan Hughes had 10 tackles in the final, while senior Cameron LaRiccia had eight stops.
Santana had to practice in the morning during the lead-up to the game at Santee Sportsplex after renovations finally starting on the running track at Santee Community Stadium following its semifinal win.