Helena pulls off incredible comeback win over Homewood

By JEREMY RAINES | For the Reporter

HOMEWOOD – A full moon on Friday the 13th set the stage for an incredible comeback victory for the Helena Huskies in a 28-24 victory over region foe Homewood on the road.

Trailing 21-7 at the half, the Huskies came out in the second half calm and collected quickly scoring twice to cut the deficit to 24-21 in the second half, before eventually putting together a special game-winning drive capped off by a touchdown run from running back Marquise Johnson late in the fourth quarter to put away the win.

Trailing 24-21 late in the fourth, Helena got the ball back with another chance to tie or take the lead and drove down the field.

The Huskies eventually dropped third-and-10 pass that seemed to suck the air out of Helena’s late fourth quarter effort.

But on fourth down, Helena head coach Richie Busby made gutsy play call rolling the dice on a trick play that actually saw quarterback Luke Stamba on the receiving end of the biggest play of the game to convert the fourth down and keep the Huskies’ chances alive.

More leadership from the senior quarterback proved vital as a QB keeper on third-and-10 just a few plays later helped the Huskies pick up another crucial first down.

The superb effort from Stamba paid off as Johnson then broke off the game-winning touchdown run to complete the impressive comeback.

“Unbelievable job by our kids and coaches to make those adjustments at halftime,” Busby said. “And then, just clutch play after clutch play. We don’t have any die in us. We may not play good early, but when it’s on the line, we’re going to give it everything we got.”

Coming in off a bye week, the Huskies looked a little shaky early in the game. Early first half penalties and struggles both offensively and defensively set an early scene for a big Patriot win over the Huskies, as they pulled ahead 21-7 heading into the half.

Homewood jumped out first in the game when quarterback Pate Owen connected with Len Irvine from the Helena 27-yard-line. After a successful PAT, the Patriots took a 7-0 advantage with 9:48 left in the first.

Helena ended up giving the ball back to Homewood shortly after, and the Patriots fooled the Huskies’ defense on a play fake pass to a wide open receiver in the end zone on the home sideline to take a 14-0 advantage with 2:56 left in the first quarter.

Helena ended up answering that touchdown with a passing touchdown of its own, as Stamba connected with Will Griffith on a 47-yard toss. This put the Huskies on the board down 14-7 with nine minutes left in the half.

Following a turnover on downs from Homewood and a punt from Helena, the Patriots struck one last time in the first half on a 71-yard touchdown pass to pull ahead 21-7 heading into the break.

Coming out of the break, however, Helena was a team that wouldn’t be denied.

On the Huskies’ first drive of the second half, they were able to convert on fourth-and-4 from Homewood 34-yard line. Another great Stamba pass to Justin Yunke along the Helena sideline set Helena up with a first-and-goal from inside the 5-yard line.

That’s when Stamba busted a tough run up the middle to cut the deficit to 21-14 with 7:42 to play in the third quarter.

Not too much later, Owen struck through the air again for Homewood with yet another deep pass to the speedy Irvine. The Helena defense, however, made some big plays later in the drive and forced the Patriots to settle for a field goal.

Nonetheless, Homewood had gone up by two scores at 24-14 with 1:44 left in the third quarter.

Just when the Helena faithful thought the Huskies were just about down-and-out, Stamba woke the crowd up with another big pass to Riley Marks as the third quarter came to an end.

To start the final quarter, the Huskies were looking at a first-and-10 from the Homewood 26. Stamba followed-up the exciting pass with another pass to Marks on a roll out pass down the Helena sideline capping off the drive on a 23-yard touchdown pass to bring the Huskies to within three points with 11:11 left in the game.

Homewood was able to make some plays defensively moving forward, but so was Helena. By getting stops on that side of the ball, the Huskies gave themselves a couple more looks on offense and only trailing by three points, which eventually led to the game-winning drive late in the final quarter.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Huskies ended the night with 347 yards of total offense on 56 total plays and were a perfect 4-for-4 on fourth down conversions.

Even though Helena turned the ball over two times on the ground, Stamba found a way to pull his offense through finishing the night with 169 yards through the air and 65 yards with his feet to combine for 3 total touchdowns. Other offensive leaders included Johnson, who led the rushing attack with 74yards on 14 carries and a rushing touchdown. Marks, Griffith and Antonio Ruiz all shared the receiving yards on the night with Marks leading the way with 85 yards on six receptions.

Griffith finished with 47 yards on one reception and Ruiz finished with 39 yards on four receptions. Kicker Logan Maloney was a perfect 4-for-4 on PATs.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Huskies found a way to fight back to help the offense have chances. Leaders included Nathan Dunaway, Iceberk Cave and Zach Goodwin. Dunaway finished with 8.5 tackles, Cave finished with 6.5 tackles and Goodwin finished with 4.5 tackles.

The Huskies improved to 2-1 overall with the win and are now 1-0 in region play as they prepare to welcome the Minor Tigers in another 6A, Region 5 matchup at Husky Stadium on Friday, Sept. 20.