Don Bauder 5:30 p.m., March 10
Helix and Otay Ranch play even through final whistle
Helix and Otay Ranch played each other even when they met Friday night at Jim Arnaiz Field. And the final score reflected that as the Highlanders and Mustangs tied 19-19.
For Helix senior receiver and defensive back Travon Van, the tie did not feel so good.
“I hate a tie – I’d rather lose,” Van said. “I can’t stand it.”
Otay Ranch junior quarterback Juan Leary saw the 19-19 final with a little bit more optimism.
“It’s not as disappointing as a loss. We played a good game – we had our mistakes here and there but all in all it was a good game,” Leary said.
In his third start as varsity quarterback, Leary finished 13-for-25 with two touchdowns and an interception. He also picked up big gains on the ground by running the option.
Both teams matched one another’s big plays. Both teams also matched one another’s misuces, including missed field goals and extra points in both halves.
“I’m frustrated because we had the chance to make a really big impact and pull off big win on the road,” said Otay Ranch head coach Brad Burton.
Tied at six at the half, Helix struck first after the break. With just less than a minute left in the third quarter Highlanders quarterback Ty Culver connected with senior tight end Levine Toilolo over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown pass that put the hosts ahead 12-6.
Otay Ranch responded with a pair of touchdown passes from Leary to senior running back Jordan Jenkins. The second of the scores was a 30-yard strike that put the Mustangs ahead 19-12 with 4:44 remaining – a lead that didn’t last for long.
Just 21 seconds after falling behind by seven, Helix evened the game at 19 on a 77-yard touchdown pass from Culver to Van. Culver finished the game 5-for-14 for 170 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
“Coach Starr was like, ‘We need a break out of you. The team’s under adversity – you better strike,’” Van said. “So I had to come through for my team.”
The ball changed possession three times in the final 4:27 of the game, but neither team could manage any more points. Following an Otay Ranch 49-yard field goal attempt that was short by inches, Helix got the ball back with eight seconds to play.
Culver connected with senior Jo-Jo Phillips with a deep bomb, but Phillips was tripped up from behind, 28 yards short of the endzone as time expired.
“I thought Jo-Jo was gone,” Van said.
The only thing gone on the final play of the game was either team’s chance to come away from their hardfought contest with a win.
Otay Ranch (2-0-1) faces a tough test next Friday when they host unbeaten Cathedral Catholic. Helix (2-1-1) travels to face West Hills, who picked up their first win of the season on Friday night.
Helix senior Travon Van stunned as Friday night's game between Helix and Otay Ranch ends in a 19-19 tie