East County Sports

Stewart’s breakaway lifts Highlanders





By Jim Lindgren

Special to EastCountySports.com


LA MESA – Samuel Stewart IV is a basketball gym rat who decided to try football for the first time this season. Come Monday, he’ll be a Big Man on Campus for his gridiron heroics in an improbable 12-7 Helix win over St. Augustine in the San Diego Section Open Division semifinals on Friday night at Benton Hart Stadium.


Stewart’s stats this year include a blocked punt and 2 receptions for 51 yards but also a lost fumble as well as a few tackles as a first-time defensive back.


With 2:01 to play, Stewart’s 28-yard interception return for a touchdown put the top-seeded Highlanders (10-1) into their sixth consecutive championship game next Saturday against No. 3 Carlsbad (10-1), a 21-20 winner over No. 2 Cathedral Catholic (8-3) in the other Open semifinal on Friday.


“I’m a basketball player, so this is shocking to me,” Stewart said. “I didn’t want to go back to basketball just yet. There’s more football for us.”


Helix, which was averaging 43 points and 393.3 yards per game, was facing its first shutout since the first game of the 2006 season against Oceanside, with under 4 minutes remaining and was trailing 7-0 against No. 4 St. Augustine (8-3).


But Tyler Tucker got a huge sack, and Jerry Riggins blocked a punt on a fourth-and-24 that Jaiden Brown recovered at the Saints’ 12-yard line.


Four plays later, Christian Washington gained 5 yards on a fourth-and-5 from the 7-yard line – the chains pulled tight about 2 inches from the tip of the ball. After a 1-yard loss by Washington and a 7-yard sack on a fumbled snap, Keionte Scott took a handoff on a jet sweep that he turned into a 10-yard touchdown run with 2:22 to play.


Problem, Helix was whistled for taunting after the score, and a normal PAT kick became a 35-yard attempt after the foul. The kick was wide left and Helix still trailed 7-6.


Helix attempted a squib kick, but was penalized 5 yards for being offside on the kick. Elijah Laing then kicked off, and the ball barely bounced into the end zone for a touchback.


The Saints’ Byron Cardwell was tackled for a 7-yard loss before Gracen Holton rushed for 5 yards. On third-and-12 from the 18-yard line, quarterback Richard Colmenero dropped to pass, looked right and then left before unleashing a bullet downfield.


Stewart read the play beautifully, jumped in front of the receiver, made the pick and sprinted untouched into the end zone with 2:01 to play for a 12-7 lead that held up.


“I was on the boundary,” Stewart said. “I saw their coach call an audible. Whenever they called that audible, it was a pass to the sideline. I had a clue what was coming, and I just jumped the play and got the pick.


“I thought I was going to drop it. I won’t lie to you. I was nervous the whole time, but I knew I needed to score.


“I caught it with two hands and took it to the crib.”


The Saints ran six more plays, but good coverage by Helix and three incompletions at the end of their final drive gave Helix the improbable come-from-behind win.


Helix lost to St. Augustine, 21-20, last year in the Division I championship game when the Scotties’ fumbled a 2-point conversion play on the final play in overtime.


Earlier this season, Helix beat St. Augustine, 44-38, as Elelyon Noa rushed for 271 yards. Noa, however, sustained a season-ending left foot injury that required surgery in Week 6 and his high school career was ended after becoming the No. 5 all-time leading rusher in the section with 5,835 yards.


Colmenero threw for 288 yards and two TDs in that Sept. 13 game but was only 12-of-23 passing for 115 yards on Friday. Scott intercepted Colmenero’s first pass on Friday and Stewart got the big Pick-6 in the end.


Colmenero, an Eastlake transfer who took over from two-year starter Angelo Perraza, fired a strike to Jalil Tucker for a 36-yard touchdown on a post pattern with 0:22 to play in the third quarter for the first score and a 7-0 Saints lead.


“Worst game I’ve ever been a part of and won,” Helix coach Robbie Owens said. “Seven turnovers and so many missed opportunities. We found ways to make it hard on ourselves.


“We were very fortunate to come away with the win.”


Kamryn Brown, who became the Scotties’ quarterback about two weeks before the season started, completed only 3-of-9 passes for 41 yards with four interceptions. Samuel Scaife IV had three interceptions for the Saints, and Tucker had one. Scaife also recovered a fumble. St. Augustine posted a remarkable 26 INTs this season with Scaife, a senior, getting five and Tucker, a sophomore, four.


Helix had seven turnovers, most in Owens’ four seasons, and a 27-yard field goal blocked before finally scoring on its 10th possession.


Washington finished with 30 carries for 137 yards. Scott had 28 yards on four attempts, and Delshawn Traylor netted 20 yards on 13 carries, which included a pair of big losses on bungled snaps.


“That was the ugliest game I’ve ever been in,” Traylor said. “Oh, my goodness.”


The Helix defense, led by John Carroll, Jeremiah Fletcher (sack), Scott and Tucker, limited St. Augustine to 5 rushing yards and 120 total yards.


“Defense played lights out all day,” said Owens, who has to be a Coach of the Year candidate. “Offense turned the ball over, and defense picked us up all game.”


Saints coach Joe Kremer admittedly regretted trying to pass on the game’s pivotal play.


“That’s on me,” he said. “I turned to my offensive coordinator, and we thought we had a good pass play to get the first down and put the game away.


“I feel very disappointed. We played so well on defense. They played extremely hard all night. It just goes to show you how tough Helix is to beat. I mean, seven turnovers, and we can’t pull it off.”


Saturday’s Open Division championship game at Southwestern College pits No. 1-ranked Helix against Carlsbad. It will mark the first time Helix has played the Lancers since a 35-14 win in 2008. The Lancers, however, champions of the powerful Avocado League, are 2-1 overall against Helix.




St. Augustine 0 0 7  0 – 7

Helix         0 0 0 12 – 12

SA – Jalil Tucker 36 pass from Richard Colmenero (Richard Brutto kick)

H – Keionte Scott 10 run (kick failed)

H – Samuel Stewart 28 interception return (pass failed)


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