Helena has 5 sign to play college football

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HELENA – This year’s senior class for the Helena football team was one of the most historic in school history after what they accomplished during the 2019 season, and on Wednesday, Feb. 5, five of the 29 seniors on the team got a special privilege.

Packed into the field house with teammates, family and friends, Sam Regina, LaDarrius Rice, Antonio Ruiz, Chase Perry and Nathan Dunnaway all signed their national letters of intent to play football at the collegiate level. 

“This is truly a celebration,” head coach Richie Busby said. “We had 29 seniors and you have five guys going on to play college football and that’s a large number when you talk about percentages that actually do play at the next level.”

It was a special season for each of the five players, all of whom played a key role in helping the Huskies claim their first area championship in school history as well as their first win over rival Pelham in school history.

Regina, who was an offensive lineman for Helena, is headed to the University of West Georgia after grading out at 89 percent during his senior season with 34 pancake blocks, which was second on the team.

A fellow offensive lineman, Perry also had a strong senior season after grading out at 88 percent with 15 pancake blocks. He’s now headed to the University of Alabama Birmingham.

The last offensive player to sign was Antonio Ruiz, who led Helena’s receiving corps during the season. He posted 491 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 39 receptions in a run-first offense. After putting together the strong season, he got some looks from a few schools and will now be going to Arkansas State to continue his playing days.

Defensively, Dunaway was a player that led Helena the last few years. During his senior season alone, he posted 129 total tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, three sacks and one interception, which led to some interest from several teams before he landed on signing with South Alabama.

Rice was also key for the Huskies’ defense this past season, and despite offenses staying away from the defensive back, he posted 36 total tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. He is now headed to the University of West Alabama.

While the day was special to celebrate due to athletic achievements, Busby used the opportunity to talk about the opportunities becoming available because of education.

“One important thing for the rest of my players,” Busby said. “All of these guys are getting extra money for grades and academics without those, they wouldn’t be sitting here today. I’ve coached hundreds of kids that could have played at the next level but didn’t take care of their grades and because some of our guys did, they’re going to school for free.”

He also pointed out that football is a team game, and without the hard work of teammates pushing them to be better every day, none of this would be possible.

“We had five guys signing this morning, but this was a team effort,” Busby said. “Each of these guys was able to get to this point because of hard work and the help of their teammates.”