Breaking through: Helena defeats rival Chelsea for first time in school history

Published 11:27 pm Thursday, October 4, 2018

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

CHELSEA – For the first time in school history, the Helena Huskies had the chance to celebrate a victory against crosstown rival Chelsea as three fourth quarter interceptions helped Helena earn a thrilling 28-21 win over the Hornets on Thursday, Oct. 4.

“What this means for the seniors, what it means for the faculty at Helena, what it means for the city and what it means for everybody involved is just awesome,” Helena head coach Richie Busby said after the game. “This is a rivalry and it’s not a rivalry unless you win some so tonight we made it a true rivalry. I’m just tickled to death for the kids because they’ve been through so much over the last few years.”

After the majority of the first quarter was complete, it looked as though Helena (2-4, 1-2) would run away with the game as the Huskies jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead.

Helena took advantage of a fumble on Chelsea’s (0-6, 0-4) first offensive possession and recovered at the Hornets 48-yard line.

After a couple of passes to wide receiver Riley Marks, Helena quarterback Luke Stamba capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to put the Huskies up 7-0.

After a Chelsea punt on its second offensive series, Helena regained possession at its own 20 where the Huskies got things going on the ground.

Helena running back Marquise Johnson ripped off two big runs including a 37-yard run to the Chelsea 33-yard line.

On the next play, Stamba took off and scored on a 33-yard run up the middle to give the Huskies a 14-0 lead with 3:07 left in the first quarter.

Helena finished the game with 356 total yards of offense with 288 of those yards coming on the ground.

Trailing 14-0, Chelsea didn’t panic as the Hornets owned the second quarter by scoring 21 unanswered points.

The Hornets first score came on a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Ethan Shaw with 10:21 left until halftime.

A big play defensively for Chelsea came late in the second quarter when Stephen Fant intercepted Stamba and returned it 65-yards for a touchdown to tie the game 14-14.

With momentum on Chelsea’s side, the Hornets got the ball back with around a minute left until halftime.

Chelsea quarterback Turner Griffin converted a fourth and 10 with a pass to Helena’s 25-yard line with 27 seconds left until halftime.

A few plays later, Griffin scrambled to the right and darted 18 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first half to give Chelsea a 21-14 lead.

When asked if Helena made many halftime adjustments, Busby said it was the fact the Huskies lost their edge in the second quarter.

“We felt good about our game plan coming in and then I think what happened is that once again, when you don’t win a lot you lose your edge,” Busby said. “You go up 14-0 and then all of a sudden you start coasting and well, this team has 30 seniors and we don’t have near that many so they aren’t going to quit at home. Offensively, we didn’t make a whole lot of adjustments but we just said we’ve got to start blocking again and get our edge back. Every time we play this game that’s what it’s going to come down to.”

Helena certainly regained its edge in the second half as the defense forced a shutout and intercepted Chelsea three times in the final 24 minutes that helped pave the way for a comeback.

Trailing by a touchdown, Stamba got things going through the air as he found Marks behind the defense on a third and 6 for a 35-yard touchdown pass to tie the game 21-21 with 4:28 to go in the third quarter.

After both teams traded punts, the first interception came at an opportune time for Helena as defensive back LaDarrius Rice jumped up and took away a ball in the end zone resulting in a touchback to give the ball back to the Huskies with 9:59 to go in the game.

A few minutes later, Johnson burst through the line and galloped 62 yards for a touchdown that put Helena back ahead 28-21 with 7:28 to go in the game.

On Chelsea’s next offensive possession, Griffin was picked off again, this time by a diving Jake Schmidt over the middle.

With a chance to put the game away, Helena couldn’t put up any points offensively as a drive stalled at Chelsea’s 18-yard line with 3:04 to go. The Huskies lined up for a 35-yard field goal but it fell short as the Hornets got the ball back trailing 28-21.

Griffin led the Hornets down the field looking to tie things up but Chelsea faced a fourth and 8 at Helena’s 20-yard line with 27 seconds to go in the game.

On fourth down, Rice got his second interception of the game to seal the 28-21 win for Helena as players ran to the student section to celebrate the victory after running out the clock.

“The fact that our kids struggled in the first half with the pass and they went inside and they don’t feel sorry about themselves and they rebound and come out and play great in the secondary in the second half is what we want,” Busby said. “That little process of not hanging your head and not letting that build to more bad things in the second half is what we’re trying to do here. “

Chelsea had five turnovers against Helena as the Hornets are still seeking its first win of the season.

Helena has now won two games in a row and will look to extend its winning streak to three in a region game at home against Carver on Friday, Oct. 12.