East County Sports

Hornets put Scotties in underdog role

Helix sophomore Travis Ford. / P.J. Panebianco

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

EAST COUNTY FEARLESS FORECASTER

SAN DIEGO CIF DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

 

EastCountySports.com staff report

 

ESCONDIDO – The Lincoln Hornets got the championship matchup they wanted with the Helix Highlanders.

For all the hubbub of Lincoln, this, and Lincon, that, Saturday night’s San Diego CIF Division I championship game at Escondido High may also be the matchup that county fans have been waiting for, as well.

After all, the combatants on both sides of the field are pretty well familiar with one another, from the players to the coaches.

“We all have a lot of former youth teammates and ex-coaches who are with Lincoln so it will be an exciting environment,” said Helix two-way senior star Xavier Van. “I can’t wait.”

If not a game at least a few years in the making since the resurrection of the Hornets under head coach David Dunn (10th year) that has resulted in a 43-15 record since 2017 and a Division II title in ’18, then at least a game that has been 67 years in the waiting.

While it would seem like a matchup worth making regularly, if not annually, considering the Scotties’ troubles finding equitable opponents, the Highlanders and Hornets have met only once on the football field… back on Oct. 8, 1954.

Helix won the meeting, 31-0, behind quarterback Tom Welbaum, son of the head coach by the same name, who passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in La Mesa that night. After a scoreless first quarter, Henry Bonilla scored the first touchdown for Helix. Dick Cunningham and Karl Jordan caught the TD passes, while Sonny Beyer rushed for the other score.

Now, the names Christian Washington, Xavier Van, and Ryland Jessee confidently pace the Highlanders’ offense.

While Washington has been highly touted as one of the county’s top running backs, Helix’s passing game and come along swiftly during the second half of the season with Jessee, a sophomore quarterback, who has the look and touch of a two-year veteran.

And while Helix’s offensive line is known as a relatively young unit, the team’s success on offense is a testament to its growth and shows the confidence that the coaching staff has had grooming a youthful front.

The Scotties’ defense has youth, as well, and has the most obvious task in trying to swarm Lincoln’s talented and speedy offense with their own veteran stars.

The Hornets might have the fastest set of skill players in the county but Helix might be one of the few teams that can nearly counter that constant threat.

Ever since Lincoln inexplicably lost to Madison, 14-10, in the regular-season finale, the Hornets have been sharp in a pair of postseason wins, including last week’s 42-14 victory over the second-seeded Warhawks after bolting out to a 28-0 lead.

Helix, meanwhile, is 8-0 in games that it was expected to win this season and 0-3 in games in which they were sure underdogs, as is the case against the Hornets.

“We had a tough pre-season schedule – playing teams like Servite, Mission Viejo, and Cathedral Catholic – which prepared us for this part of the season,” Van said.

The Hornets are multi-dimensional and are likely to put up a good amount of points, but the Highlanders might have their way in the ground game.

For the Scotties, their eventual success should likely be decided in the trenches.

Should third-seeded Lincoln somehow come out on top in the battle between hashes, then they can live up to the expectation as the two-touchdown favorites they are here against the top-seeded Scots, according to multiple computer projections.

“Our team does not get all the press as other teams do but we are just as talented,” Van said. “We prefer to speak with our play. Coach (Robbie) Owens has prepared us well for these moments and now it is time to finish the mission.”

Despite the hype, the Hornets and their plentiful prospects still have plenty to prove… HELIX, 29-28.

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