East County Sports

Helix comeback falls short against Chaparral

By Jim Lindgren
© East County Sports.com
SAN DIEGO (8-30-15) — Players, coaches, family and friends left Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Ariz., about 10 a.m. on Thursday hoping to escape the desert heat and play some football against the San Diego Section No. 1-ranked Helix Highlanders in the Brothers in Arms Classic at Cathedral Catholic High School.

Carrying a No. 18 ranking in their home state, the Firebirds arrived to a relative high heat index in San Diego and then put some serious heat on the Highlanders in a 23-19 victory at Doug Manchester Stadium on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 29).

The boys from Arizona dominated action for 3¼ quarters, taking a 23-7 lead early in the fourth quarter before withstanding a furious comeback attempt by the Highlanders, ranked No. 4 in California.

With a fast and furious defense, Chaparral managed to corral all-section tailback NATHAN STINSON for most of the game and checked quarterback MICHAEL AUSTIN until the fourth quarter.

Stinson finished with 103 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, but 52 yards came on a TD scamper in the first quarter, and the other scoring runs were short runs late in the game.

Austin had only 11 yards on 5-of-12 passing until finding a groove in the fourth quarter. He finished 9-of-21 passing for 81 yards. He also rushed 10 times for minus-15 yards – uncharacteristic of the athletic junior.

And that was the grand total of the Helix offense.

“Without a doubt we need to work on all phases of the game,” Helix coach TROY STARR said. “This is who we are. We’re a work in progress. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Last year’s very young squad went 10-3 and lost in the San Diego Section Open Division championship game to Oceanside by one touchdown. Many of the key players from that team are back as juniors and seniors, but they need time to gel and learn some more, according to Starr.

“We’re going to use this as a positive,” he told his squad after the game. “It’s not where you are at the beginning, it’s where you are at the end. You guys fought all the way to the end. We made some mental mistakes. We need to use this as a chance to get better.

“We’re going to watch the tape. We’re going to see all the mental mistakes. And we’re going to see who has the mental toughness to come back and get better.”

One of those mistakes happened early. A fumbled shotgun snap on the second play of the game was recovered by Chaparral’s Johnston Hunter on the 19-yard line. Five plays later, Kurt Shughart (13 carries, 63 yards) bulled into the end zone for a 1-yard TD to give the Firebirds a 7-0 lead2:48 into the contest.

Helix tied it six minutes later with what the Scotties have been accustomed to seeing the past few seasons … Stinson cutting, darting and bolting 52 yards for a touchdown on the first play of their third possession.

Defense – on both sides – ruled for the next 24 minutes.

After Helix scored at 3:15 of the first quarter, the ensuing series ended like this:

  • Chaparral punt (6 plays).
  • Helix punt (3).
  • Chaparral missed 40-yard field-goal attempt (6).
  • Helix punt (6).
  • Chaparral 29-yard field-goal attempt blocked by EVAN PERKINS (6).
  • Helix punt on the last play of the first half (3).
  • Chaparral punt (3).
  • Helix punt (3).
  • Chaparral punt (3).
  • Helix punt (3).
  • Chaparral punt (5).
  • Helix punt (3).

Finally, the Firebirds ended the stalemate. After a 24-yard punt return by Shughart, Chaparral appeared to have taken the lead on a 21-yard field goal by Anthony Mosharrafa. But Helix was whistled for a neutral zone violation. The Firebirds elected not to kick again on a fourth-and-1 from the 3-yard line, and Shughart bulled in for the touchdown and a 14-7 lead.

Another 3-and-out by Helix turned disastrously worse when punter KEATON CHASE bobbled the snap and was tackled in the end zone by Brandon Jamison for a safety and a 16-7 Firebird advantage.

No official records are kept, but seven punts by Helix is a rarity. An eighth attempt ended in a safety, and another punt after the safety led to a touchdown.

“It was a little frustrating, trying to move the ball,” Austin said. “But we have to do a better job of handling things.”

Suddenly facing its worst loss since 2009, Helix rallied and came close to pulling off an epic comeback.

Austin fired a 16-yard completion to MASON VINYARD for the Scotties first down of the second half. Austin rushed 19 yards for another first down. Austin connected with SCOTT YOUNG on a 28-yard completion. And Stinson scored his second TD on a 4-yard run with 8:22 to play to make it 23-13. However, a two-point conversion pass that could have made this a one-score game fell incomplete.

After a 3-and-out, Helix needed only six plays to pull to 23-19 with 4:36 left – Stinson scored from 1 yard. However, the PAT kick sailed wide right, which meant Helix would need another touchdown.

The Scotties got the ball back with 3:06 left, but went backwards in four plays. Chaparral ran out the final 2:10 for the upset victory.

“We dominated the first 3½ quarters and let them back in it at the end,” Hamilton said. “But all in all we played really well. They’re a great team. They have some really great players.”

Said Starr, “This will be a reality check when we watch the video. We have to work on fundamentals. We’ve got so much to work on.

ZEKE NOA had a big game for the Scotties, posting two sacks, a batted pass and a TD-saving tackle on a punt return. Likewise, Perkins had several defensed balls at cornerback, plus the blocked field-goal attempt.

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