Marty Graham 4:30 p.m., Feb. 24
Highlanders bring convincing end to Pirates’ section title streak
QUALCOMM STADIUM – For the first time in seven seasons, Division II has a new champion. Top-seeded Helix dismantled third-seeded Oceanside 44-6 on Monday night, bringing a decisive end to the Pirates’ streak of seven straight section titles.
“We ended the ‘reign of terror,’” Helix head coach Troy Starr said. “Oceanside is a great program that has won seven in a row, but it’s our night tonight.”
Helix (12-1) broke a scoreless tie with a pair of quick touchdowns late in the first quarter. The second score – a 65-yard pass from Brandon Lewis to Gary Thompson – came on the first play after an Oceanside punt.
“Coach Starr called my play, I ran my route, Brandon delivered the ball, I caught it and just took off,” Thompson said.
Helix delivered the knockout blow to Oceanside (9-3-1) with an 80-yard drive late in the second quarter, finding the end zone with 19 seconds left in the half. Lewis capped the drive with a three-yard pass to receiver Kendal Keys, left uncovered in the end zone.
“We ran the same thing on the play before and he was open, but I didn’t see him,” Lewis said. “They were yelling my name on the sideline telling me Kendal was open, and I just snapped it and threw it to him – and he was wide open.”
Helix controlled the first half on both sides of the ball, and took a 24-0 lead into halftime. At the break it appeared that it wasn’t a question of whether Oceanside’s unprecedented section title streak would come to an end – but a question of by how much.
“After the first half, I felt like it was our game,” said Helix running back Darrion Hancock. “They beat us year after year after year, so it was all about getting revenge back on them. That’s what fueled us to keep playing.”
In the third quarter, Helix scored touchdowns on its first three possessions – including a pair of touchdown runs by of 25 and 61 yards by Michael Adkins – to turn the game into a one-sided rout. In a fourth quarter played with a running clock, Helix ended Oceanside’s legendary streak by 38 points in relatively anti-climactic fashion.
“Seven titles in a row is amazing, but we ended it tonight and that is how we wanted to end it – in blowout style,” Lewis said. “We kind of owed them one.”
It is fitting that Helix would bring an end to Oceanside’s championship streak, as four of the Pirates’ seven finals victories came against the Highlanders. Helix was also eliminated by Oceanside in the postseason each of the past three years.
“We haven’t had a football championship since 2001 and we just wanted to show all the doubters out there that we could do it and we wouldn’t be the same team as last year,” Lewis said.
Lewis finished 17-of-28 for 253 yards and three touchdowns as Helix rolled up 482 yards of offense against Oceanside. Defensively, the Highlanders held their ninth straight opponent to less than seven points.
“It’s a great group of kids and a great group of players – they really care for each other and it’s a true team. It’s an amazing group to coach,” Starr said.
Helix finishes the season as the best team in the section, and now waits to see if they will play for a state title. The Highlanders are currently sitting atop the Cal-Hi Sports Division II South State Bowl rankings and find out Sunday if they are headed to Carson.
“If we make it, we’ll just go up there and play Helix football,” Lewis said.