The top-ranked Helix Highlanders scored all of their points in a span of twenty-two seconds late, late in the fourth quarter of their San Diego CIF Open Division semifinal against visiting St. Augustine on Friday night, advancing to the section title game with a 12-7 victory over the fourth-seeded Saints at Benton Hart Stadium.
Senior Sammy Stewart, already an established solid player for the Highlander varsity basketball team, may end up being remembered in Helix football lore after his 28-yard interception return with 2:01 remaining, actually giving Helix all of its points in a matter of those 22 split-seconds after being shutout for most of the game.
It was a far contrast from a regular-season meeting with Saints at Mesa College when Helix won, 44-38. The Highlanders needed to overcome a seven-turnover night in order to win this one.
The Scotties will now face the third-seeded Carlsbad Lancers, the Avocado League champs who defeated second-seeded Cathedral Catholic, 21-20, behind three touchdowns from senior receiver Cole Wright, one of the county’s top players this season. The game will be played at Southwestern College’s DeVore Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. Both teams are 10-1 this season.
Highlander junior Jerry Riggens blocked a punt that was recovered by junior teammate Jaiden Brown at the St. Augustine 12-yard line with under five minutes to play in the semifinal game.
Despite needing seven plays, Helix senior Keionte Scott caught a toss for a sweep that resulted in a 10-yard score to bring Helix within an extra-point from tying the game. However, the Highlanders were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which created a 35-yard PAT, which was subsequently no good.
On St. Augustine’s ensuing possession, Stewart stepped in front of a third-and-12 pass from the Saint 18-yard line and returned his pick into the end zone.
Already without record-setting senior running back Elelyon Noa, who was lost for the season to a left foot injury in the sixth game, Helix may be forced to shore up its possibly even-more depleted offensive backfield for the section final against the Lancers with a combination of Army-bound senior Delshawn Traylor and Scott.
Helix senior Jeremiah Fletcher had a sack and the Highlander defense held Saints to just 120 yards, including just five yards total on the ground. Scott added an interception.
The Highlanders have won just one of three meetings against Carlsbad – coming in the last meeting between the two schools, a 35-14 decision in 2008.
For the Scotties, the trip to the finals is their sixth-straight title-game berth, including a fifth Open Division appearance. Helix is going for a tenth San Diego Section championship.
(4) Orange Glen (7-4) vs. (1) Santana (10-1) – At El Capitan High, the Sultans will have their San Diego CIF Division IV semifinal game against red-hot visitor Orange Glen at the Vaqueros’ stadium on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Awkwardly, the Sultans’ field at Santee Community Stadium is undergoing renovations starting this week.
Sultan senior quarterback Nathan Temple passed for 185 yards and two touchdowns and senior running back Brooks Moutaw rushed for 108 yards and two scores in a 40-28 quarterfinal win over visiting Escondido last Friday night, which suddenly ended up being the final home game for the senior-laden club.
Moutaw had a 24-yard touchdown run and Temple had an 11-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Ethan Wright but the game was tied at 14-all after one.
After Jayce Lynch had a sack and recovered a forced fumble for the Sultans, Moutaw added a 26-yard touchdown in the second to give Santana a 21-7 halftime lead.
Temple connected with senior Randall Smith on a 7-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Smith has a Santana-record 33 career touchdowns.
Senior Nathan Hughes had a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter to give Santana a 33-14 lead.
Senior Dawud Saddler rushed for 36 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and blocked an extra-point attempt after the Cougars’ first score of the game. He also had nine tackles for Santana.
Junior Jared Forster had seven receptions for 117 yards for Santana. Forster is third in Santana history with 130 receptions.
Sultan senior Michael Richter continued his torrid pace for sacks, wrapping up two more in the victory, giving him a 14 1/2 on the season. He also had 10 tackles in the win.
Orange Glen is led by senior Cael Patterson, who is currently fifth on the all-time section career rushing list with 5,508 yards. He is also in the section’s top ten all-time with 63 career rushing touchdowns and 73 overall career touchdowns. He also ranks near the top five in the section in all-time points scored in a career.
The Sultans and Patriots will meet for the third time, with the previous two meetings coming in 1967-68, including a 7-6 Santana win in a game played at Monte Vista High.
Santana is playing in its sixth section division semifinal and is aiming for its third title-game appearance and a first-ever section division championship.
The winner of Friday night’s game will advance to meet the winner of another semifinal between second-seeded Serra (9-2) and sixth-seeded La Jolla Country Day (9-3) in the Division IV championship game at DeVore Stadium on Friday, Nov. 29 at 1 p.m.
The Sultans already own a 31-14 win over the Conquistadors at Serra back in Week 2. Santana also won a memorable postseason game against the Torreys, 76-55, in a first-round matchup last season. This year’s LJCD squad is averaging nearly 47 points-per-game.
Elsewhere, ninth-seeded Oceanside (8-4) erased a 19-0 Steele Canyon lead to upset the Division I top-seeded Cougars, 26-19, in overtime last Friday. Senior Chance Johnson surely is the special teams player of the year in the county after he returned his fifth kick for a touchdown this season in the contest, a 72-yard punt return. The Cougs finished 9-2.
Fourth-seeded Madison (7-4) eliminated fifth-seeded Grossmont (8-4) behind senior rushing star Ke’ontae Springs’s 400-plus yards of total offense and five touchdowns.
Grossmont senior back Robert Tucker was nearly as impressive in the finest performance of his career, gaining 228 total yards and scoring four touchdowns, including three in the first half. Foothiller senior quarterback Jaime Odom finished his illustrious career with nearly 8,800 yards of total offense to finish in the top ten all-time in section history.
In Division II, sixth-seeded Christian was knocked out by third-seeded Vista, 35-14, in a quarterfinal game last Friday. Patriot junior quarterback Gabe Krug scored a pair of touchdowns, including his second after unknowingly breaking his collarbone on the first play of the scoring drive, which included a couple of passes.
In Division III, the West Hills Wolf Pack (7-5) stunned the county’s stingiest defense with a game-opening touchdown drive on a pass from senior Kole Klingerman to senior Steven Cristiini, but the undefeated, top-seeded Scripps Ranch Falcons (11-0) took advantage of a pair of rare Pack turnovers and turned them into scores in the first half of a 42-7 win.
The El Cajon Valley Braves lost in their quarterfinal game at top-seeded Vincent Memorial, 23-0, but the team that snapped an 18-game losing streak at the start of the season and finished with four wins, including a playoff shutout, returns two of the most electric players in the East County next season in Damarius Hyde and Clarence Johnson. Sophomore Jayden Barnett led ECV with 65 yards on two receptions against the Scots.