Helix wins historic rivalry game against Grossmont

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For a quarter of century, Helix Charter High School has proudly displayed a musket trophy in their halls, representing the rivalry between the Highlanders and their across-town neighbors, the Grossmont Foothillers. The musket, which has not been on Grossmont grounds since 1991, will stay with Helix for another year.

On Friday night, Oct. 28, the county poured into Helix stands to watch the long-awaited rivalry match commence.

For a quarter of century, Helix Charter High School has proudly displayed a musket trophy in their halls, representing the rivalry between the Highlanders and their across-town neighbors, the Grossmont Foothillers. The musket, which has not been on Grossmont grounds since 1991, will stay with Helix for another year.

On Friday night, Oct. 28, the county poured into Helix stands to watch the long-awaited rivalry match commence.

“It means a lot,” said linebacker Ezekiel Noa, a Helix senior. “We come out every year and they’re always undefeated before we play them, so it’s definitely a game to look forward to.”

Grossmont has spent the last several weeks a hair’s breadth above Helix in league standings, with shutouts against Steele Canyon and El Capitan. Their fast-paced offense makes quick work of their opponents.

Helix wrestled with choppier beginnings, losing two games in preseason, but remain undefeated in league. They handily won their league opener against Steele Canyon (42-0) and shutout West Hills (56-0) two weeks later. 

When the two menhirs finally faced each other in the shadow of the 25-year Helix streak, the entire community held its breath. The coin was tossed, and history unfurled on the field. 

In the first half, Grossmont made a valiant effort to win back the musket trophy, keeping up with Helix drive for drive, even leading 21-14 in the second quarter.

Two pivotal changes in the second half choked the Foothillers’ hopes of redeeming their losing streak. Minutes into the third quarter, Grossmont wide receiver Domonique Guevara got side checked and had to sit out the rest of the game due to an AC sprain in his shoulder.

Grossmont head coach Tom Karlo said the injury set the team back, but should not have kept them from the win.

“It was a questionable hit that wasn’t called but that hurt us, obviously,” said Karlo. “He is a spectacular player and I think he’s the best receiver on the field in terms of either side, but we’ve got other guys.”

Unfortunately, with Guevara off the field, Foothiller quarterback Hunter Gaines seemed at a loss with no one to throw the ball to, getting sacked by Helix’s defense repeatedly before he was able to pass the pigskin. Grossmont’s other standouts like wide receiver Josh Moala and running back Kenyon Johnson seemed disjointed, missing the linchpin that gives their offense such explosive force. Grossmont did not score another point.

But losing Guevara was not the only factor in the turning of tides. As Helix trooped into the lockers during halftime, scoreboard showing a frustrating 21-21, the mood changed. 

Helix senior tight end Jesse Leasau said the team realized how much they wanted the win.

“We came out hungrier,” he said. “I feel like the mood in the locker room when we were inside had to change because no one was excited about the score. We underestimated them but we came out stronger. We came out ready to dominate.”

And dominate, they did.

In the next two quarters, the Highlanders would go on to score 24 more points.

Noa attributes it to a return to familiar strategy.

“The second half we had to make adjustments, which we did,” he said. “Our game plan for them wasn’t what we usually run, but in the second half we went back to our normal scheme and we executed it right.”

Noa rushed 84 yards for two touchdowns in the first half. In the second half, he rushed one. Taking his place as the winged footman of the team was his little brother, freshman running back Elelyon Noa who totaled 140 yards and 22 carries, including a spectacular one-yard dive into the end zone for a game-sealing touchdown.

Still the new guy in town, Helix Coach Robbie Owens said he was pleased with the game.

“It’s great to get the win,” he said. “Grossmont being undefeated and the whole rivalry and the streak, we knew they were going to come out and play their best football. We did a great job at half. I’m proud of our offensive line and our defensive coaches. We came out in the second half and really controlled the football and controlled the game defensively.”

Owens said he did not even know about the rivalry until several days before the game. 

“It probably means a little more to me now after coaching it,” he said, “but I’ve been asked, ‘did you have this game marked on your calendar?’ I didn’t know what it was all about. I think from their perspective it probably means more to them in terms of the rivalry just because of the streak. But our guys know that we’re always going to get their best shot and we’ve got to play good football.”

Karlo said he was not disappointed with the game either.

“I liked the game,” he said. “We went toe to toe with them. We didn’t back down. We fought. They had to earn every yard.”

Despite the disappointed faces on the bench and in the bleachers when the final whistle blew, Karlo said the Foothillers are not going to take the loss to heart.

“We have a mantra: the most important game is the next one,” he said. “We know we have more play, more season, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

For the Highlanders, the game was less about the rivalry and more about a look at postseason play, said Owens.

“The best part about a game like this is that this is similar to what we’re going to see in playoffs,” he said. “When you take a job at Helix, the expectation is CIF and so that’s what the program is built on and our goal and objective is to win a CIF open championship. So this win tonight gets us ready for that and propels us into the next several games.”

Grossmont has a home game against West Hills on Friday, November 4, and Helix will play Valhalla. 

With the end of the season fast-approaching, and the musket trophy secured for another year, Noa left the field Friday night with a smile.

“I’ve heard there’s nothing like high school football,” he said. “So I just want to cherish these moments.”

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