Memory lane: A look back at Helena sports in 2020

FROM STAFF REPORTS

No one could have guessed, let alone scripted, what 2020 would hold for Shelby County—the return of high school sports alone was not guaranteed, and the efforts of those who made it a reality, including those who made football happen despite a pandemic, were nothing short of heroic.

JANUARY

AHSAA shakes up football classifications, regions

Reclassification shook up the sports landscape on Tuesday, Dec. 17, as the AHSAA Central Board approved changes to classifications and regions for fall sports that included shifts in several regions and areas, as well as a major change for Briarwood, who has jumped up from Class 5A to Class 6A.

County has 17 named to 2019 All-State football team

Featuring the best offensive and defensive players from each classification and separated into two teams, the 2019 All-State team featured 17 names from Shelby County following a historic football season.

HHS finishes as runner-up in Sandestin tourney

The Helena Huskies varsity basketball team used the Christmas holiday to get better as a team and played several quality opponents from both in state and out of state, as they competed in the 25th annual Hilton Sandestin Beach Blowout Dec. 27-31 in Destin, Florida. The Huskies played extremely well and came up just short of taking the tournament title as they finished as the runner-up in the 16-team tournament.

Helena defeats Chelsea to continue win streak

A strong first half from the Helena Huskies led to a fourth win in a row on Tuesday, Jan. 14, as they took down area foe Chelsea 59-38 in front of the home crowd.

Helena grabs area win over Calera, Cave joins 1,000-point club

A 31-point night for Daunte Cave on Tuesday, Jan. 7, didn’t just give the Helena Huskies a huge win over county foe Calera to open area play, but also saw the senior guard join the 1,000-point club. He became just the third player in school history to do so.

Pierce joins 1,000-point club in Helena victory

It was a special senior night for Helena guard Caden Pierce, who on top of helping his team defeat rival Pelham, became just the fourth Husky in school history to join the 1,000-point club on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Pierce finished the night with 10 points as the Huskies were never in jeopardy against Pelham, coming away with a 53-35 win to move to 5-0 in area play and lock up the No. 1 seed to host the area tournament.

FEBRUARY

Helena finishes undefeated in area play

The Helena Huskies will finish the 2019- 20 regular season undefeated in Class 6A Region 8 play after defeating Chelsea 65-60 on the road on Friday, Jan. 24.

Helena, who already locked up the top seed for the area tournament after defeating Pelham on Jan. 21, will finish 6-0 in a region that features the Huskies, Pelham, Chelsea and Calera.

Helena wrestlers down county foes on senior night

It was a bittersweet night for four sets of parents at Helena High School on Tuesday, Jan. 28, as the Huskies’ wrestling team hosted Senior Night.

Helena has 5 sign to college

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 Dunaway all signed their national letters of intent to play football at the collegiate level.

Helena has strong showing at state meet

The Pelham girls never were higher than fourth in the Class 6A Indoor State Track and Field Championships heading into one of the final events, but the 4X400-meter relay team changed that with a drastic win.

Competing against some of the best teams in the state at the Birmingham CrossPlex Feb. 7-8, the Panthers had a strong two days.

Helena’s season ends in heartbreak

The four seed isn’t supposed to give the host much trouble, much less pull the upset on the road, but the Pelham Panthers didn’t get the memo. Having lost their two regular season games to the Helena Huskies by a total of 41 points, and only winning one area game during the regular season, no one gave Pelham much of a shot to keep the first-round area matchup close, but that’s exactly what they did.

Local wrestlers perform well at AHSAA state tourney

The Von Braun Center once again played host to the AHSAA State Wrestling Tournament between Thursday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 15, and Shelby County was well represented. A total of 57 wrestlers from eight different schools from across the county were in attendance, 27 of which stood on the podium at the conclusion of the tournament.

MARCH

Calera, Helena split boys and girls soccer games

The Calera and Helena soccer teams got together on Tuesday, March 3, at Helena High School, as both their boys and girls teams squared off against each other with each school picking up a win.

Helena shuts out Calera in area opening win

The Helena Huskies put together a dominant effort in their area opener against Calera on Tuesday, March 10, behind the tune of a 15-0 shutout victory in a shortened four-inning game.

The Huskies scored at least two runs in the first four innings to claim the mercy-rule victory and outhit the Eagles 11-1, while committing no errors in the matchup.

All school sporting events suspended until April 13

With the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) precautions have been taken across the country, specifically in the sports world, and on Friday, March 13, sports came to a halt for Shelby County Schools.

Cave, Pierce named to All-County 2019-2020 basketball team

The 2019-20 boys basketball season is one that won’t soon be forgotten. Featuring Oak Mountain’s run to its first Final Four in school history, Elite Eight appearances from Montevallo, Spain Park and Vincent, a Sweet 16 appearance from Pelham, and so many other storylines, it was one of the county’s best basketball seasons in years.

APRIL

County football coaches make adjustments

Coaches across the country are having to game plan for an extra opponent this offseason: COVID-19. Nothing truly prepares you for the challenges this disease now presents our country and people around the world trying to remain productive in their respective craft.

Stamba happy with the memories

A text message. That’s how senior dual-sport athlete Luke Stamba found out his final baseball season at Helena High School had come to an end two months early due to COVID-19.

It was a heartbreaking text to get from head coach P.J. Guy, who sent the message to the team at first announcing the suspension of the season on Friday, April 13, and then the cancellation of the season less than two weeks later.

Huskies’ top players, seniors make All-County team

With two teams ranked No. 1 through the first few weeks, six total teams inside their respective top 10 and two additional nominated for a spot in the top 10, the 2020 baseball season was shaping up to be a historic one, but it’s one that will leave us with an empty feeling.

MAY

Changes made for girls’ wrestling

After the AHSAA met last Thursday the verdict wasn’t quite what the advocates for girls’ wrestling in Alabama were hoping for, but it’s a promising start, as three events for girls have been added to the 2020-21 calendar.

Ballantrae Golf Club reopens to public

The Ballantrae Golf Club is set to reopen for guests to book tee times beginning Friday, May 1, after closing down for the last month due to COVID-19.

Ballantrae’s general manager said that the club had talked with local officials and have taken the necessary precautions to safely allow guests to return.

17 Shelby County soccer players named state’s best

The All-State team featured 17 players from Shelby County, including five first teamers, six second teamers and six honorable mention players. The All-Metro team featured an even more dominant presence of Shelby County players with 46 total boys soccer players from the county making the team, including eight on the first team, 15 on the second team and 23 honorable mention players.

Helena rising-senior goalie named to North All-Star soccer team

This spring was set to be another impressive one for local soccer teams, and it not only showed on the All-County, All-Metro and All-State soccer teams, but also shows on the recently announced North All-Star team.

On a team of 17 players, four of those players were from Shelby County, including Spain Park’s Logan Edwards, Helena’s Alex Franklin, Chelsea’s Chris Nettuno and Oak Mountain’s Wilson Rhodes.

Youth sports returning in Alabama

In her latest amendment to the safer-at-home order on Thursday, May 21, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced athletic activities could resume for team sports starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22.

JUNE

Helena football gets back to work

As the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to live sports months ago, visible signs of getting back to normal are starting to be seen at the high school level, as the Helena Huskies held their first varsity football workouts in preparation for the 2020 season on Tuesday, June 9, coming off a historic 2019 season.

Westminster player named 2020 Gatorade State Player of Year

After a remarkable career that saw her start all four years at Westminster School at Oak Mountain ended with heartbreak due to COVID- 19 cutting her senior year short by close to two months, Morgan White now has one last memorable moment to claim from her high school days.

On Wednesday morning, June 17, the Westminster graduate was named Alabama’s 2020 Gatorade Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.

Helena anglers perform well

It was a strong weekend for a few anglers who made their way out onto Lay Lake between Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20, as one local team brought home a championship and the other qualified for nationals in October.

The team of Brandon Berry and Hunter Bright, representing the Helena Bass Club locally, were able to claim first place in the high school regional qualifier, while Shelby County Junior team anglers Mason Carden and Dawson Bryant finished second in the junior division state championship.

American Legion baseball season gets underway

Despite the cancellations of many summer sports, the baseball season for American Legion Matthew Blount Post 555 officially kicked off on June 18.

JULY

State superintendent lays out plan for practices, games

During his press conference on Friday, June 26, regarding the roadmap to reopen schools this fall, State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey was asked about the return of sports this fall and the response was something fans were hoping to hear.

Flip Side Watersports at OMSP offers fun place to cool off

Summer is heating up and the nee d to find a local place with a lot of cool water, shade trees and fun is a must. The good news is that place can be found at Oak Mountain State Park. Flip Side Watersports located inside OMSP on Beaver Lake has taken water sports to the next level.

D2 soccer camp continues growth in year two at THS

For six straight years, Dan DeMasters built his Dynamic Development soccer camp into one of the most sought after experiences in the Birmingham-metro area, but year seven looked to be in doubt due to COVID-19.

Softball showcase comes to Calera, Helena

DCB Elite Academy’s annual Stars Over Alabama Summer Showcase came to Calera at the end of July to help put softball recruits in front of college coaches for three days of travel ball play. The event started on Friday, July 31, and went through Sunday, Aug. 2.

AUGUST

Jefferson-Shelby Youth Football League cancels 2020 season in Helena

After a meeting on Sunday, July 26, the Jefferson-Shelby Youth Football League board members voted 6-5 in favor of canceling the upcoming 2020 season due to the threat of COVID-19. The JSYFL, which consists of “Over the Mountain” teams in Jefferson and Shelby Counties, normally consists of more than 2,000 football players and cheerleaders.

Helena baseball seniors celebrated at dinner

As we quickly approached and prepared for a new school year, 2020 seemed to get more confusing each day. Through it all, sports and teammates seemed to be the solution that usually subdued many of the world’s problems.

For the families of the senior baseball players at Helena High School, they wanted to provide one last opportunity for the Huskies’ senior class to come together and properly close a special chapter in their lives.

Huskies opened 2020 season with thrilling five-set loss

Due to the concerns of the season being cut short due to COVID-19, Spain Park’s opening volleyball match on Thursday, Aug. 20 against county foe Helena also coincided as senior night.

While it was different, the seniors will never forget the start to their final season thanks to a thrilling five-set 3-2 (25-12, 19-25, 25-15, 22-25, 15-6) victory.

Final-minute touchdown costs Huskies in loss

From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, Helena and Chelsea provided one of the most entertaining 6A games to start the young season as the Hornets narrowly topped Helena 27-23 on Friday, Aug. 28.

A wild fourth quarter that saw a couple lead changes, a goal-line stop by Chelsea, a safety forced by the Helena defense and the winning Chelsea touchdown with 46 seconds to play summed up just how crazy this county matchup got in the final 12 minutes.

SEPTEMBER

Helena kicks off XC season with confidence 

The Calera Eagles and Helena Huskies both kicked off the 2020 cross country season on Thursday, Aug. 20, after a summer of unknown and the two had ideal starts to the new year. Helena’s win was the highlight and Brady Barton played a key role in helping the Huskies start on a strong note.

Huskies down Jackson-Olin, Hillcrest in volleyball tri-match

The Helena volleyball team had a successful night in their home gym on Tuesday, Sept. 1, as the Huskies took care of the Jackson-Olin Mustangs and got another quality win against Hillcrest- Tuscaloosa as part of a trimatch between the three teams.

The two wins marked a step in the right direction for the team, something head coach Amanda Lewis was happy to see.

Helena local wins Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Claire

Bill Weidler, a Helena resident, won the YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Claire on Sunday, Aug. 23 with his earnings totaling around $100,500 at the tournament, with his overall winnings totaling $204,350. Weidler competed in the four-day competition and ended up winning after achieving a four-day total of 86 pounds, 7 ounces.

Helena cancels 2 games due to COVID-19

After a big bounce-back win against Benjamin Russell following two consecutive losses by six points or less, the Helena Huskies will now take a big hit to their season after being forced to cancel their next two games due to COVID-19 cases within the program.

The announcement that the Huskies would have to cancel their rivalry matchup on Friday, Sept. 18 with the Pelham Panthers at home and a road non-region contest with McAdory on Sept. 25, came on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Helena Miracle League plays ball during the fall

After taking into consideration the questions and concerns from parents and players over the COVID- 19 pandemic, the Helena Miracle League will be moving forward with its fall baseball program.

The Helena Miracle League was founded with the mission of providing opportunities to children with disabilities to play baseball through the miracle league.

OCTOBER

Helena girls run well at county race

Helena, Briarwood and Pelham each had a top-10 finisher to close out the top 10 at the Helena Invitational on Oct. 10. Mallory Barton finished sixth for the Huskies with a time of 21:54.99. Helena was able to finish third in the team standings thanks to four more finishers in the top 30. Olivia Timmons finished inside the top 20 by claiming 18th with a time of 24:03.37, while Lindsey May (22nd), Madison Tsimpides (24th) and Mallory Hamilton (30th) finished inside the top 30.

Helena sweeps Calera in area tournament

It has been an up-and-down season at times for the Helena Huskies, but this year’s volleyball team has fought to get better and fine tune imperfections throughout the season, and it paid off on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

After taking a 15-9 advantage, Brianna Wilson closed out the match by winning nine consecutive points on serve for a 25-9 win to complete the 3-0 sweep.

Helena’s season ends in Super Regionals (PHOTO)

A season full of ups and downs officially ended on Wednesday, Oct. 21 for the Helena Huskies, but it didn’t end before they got one last chance to show the growth they’ve experienced this season.

At times against the St. Paul’s Saints, the Huskies struggled, but they also showed many aspects of their improvement throughout the season, including in a hard-fought first set.

Seaburn Hines gets All-Star recognition (PHOTO)

Three of Shelby County’s best senior football players will get the opportunity to compete in one of the state’s most storied traditions by earning a spot on the 2020 Alabama All-Star football team.

Thompson’s J.B. Mitchell, Helena’s Seaburn Hines and Spain Park’s Drake Tabor will all take the field for team Alabama during the 34th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game this December.

NOVEMBER

Helena beats 5A champs to lock up 2 seed

After navigating through the regular season that resulted in two forfeits due to COVID-19 and three consecutive canceled games, the Helena Huskies needed a win on Friday, Oct. 30, to clinch the No. 2 seed in the 6A playoffs and they did just that, defeating three-time defending 5A state champion UMS-Wright 12-7 in a gutsy performance where points were hard to come by in the regular season finale.

Helena runners make state

With the pressure of a spot in the state championship on the line, several Class 6A cross country runners across the county came through in their section meets during the biggest moment of the season thus far on Thursday, Nov. 5.

Of the five teams from the 6A classification, Briarwood, Calera, Chelsea and Helena all advanced their entire teams to the state meet, while Pelham also had several of its boys and girls advance as well.

Helena scores 22 unanswered in playoff win

It’s been said for generations that the game of football offers many life lessons and on Friday, Nov. 6, the Helena Huskies learned to never give up as they scored 22 unanswered points all in the second half to take down Carver-Montgomery 22-19 in a wild first-round matchup of the Class 6A playoffs.

Huskies open basketball season with victory

With several stars out due to both football teams still in the playoffs, the Helena Huskies were able to put together a dominant offensive performance against Montevallo to pick up a 77-50 victory in both teams’ opener to the 2020- 2021 season on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Huskies’ season ends in 2nd round

The Helena football team’s season ended with a 40-7 loss at Spanish Fort on Friday, Nov. 13, but it will still be remembered as a season that the Huskies advanced to the second round of the state playoffs for just the second time in school history, and the first time since 2015, which was the second year Helena fielded a team.

Helena Diamond Club golf tournament a success

More than 120 golfers were guests at Timberline Golf Club on Saturday, Nov. 7, as they joined in for the inaugural Helena Diamond Club Golf Tournament.

According to organizer Benji Barnett, the tournament ended up being more successful than the club had ever anticipated, and the money generated through sponsorships and admission will now go to help fund athletics in Helena’s schools.

Belles put on annual powder puff for a cause

Each year, the Helena Belles, which are a high school service organization, suit up for a role reversal powder puff flag football game to raise money for a specific organization.

This year, the Helena Belles invited girls all throughout the high school to participate in the game held on Sunday, Nov. 8 to support Vineyard Family Services, which runs Backpack Buddies in the local schools.

DECEMBER 

Regions tradition sets fundraising record for 2020

Although the annual golf tournament, the Regions Tradition, was canceled due to COVID-19, the charitable support surrounding the event is still being made possible by Regions, and this year’s winners are the biggest yet.

The total amount raised in 2020 – $1.2 million – represents the largest amount raised in one year in the history of the tournament for charities across Alabama.

Three in double figures lead Helena to road win against Bulldogs

Thanks to three scorers in double figures and two with double-doubles, the Helena Huskies were able to go on the road and take down county opponent Montevallo 61-31 on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Helena got double-doubles from Montana Harris and Brianna Wilson, while Kennedi Nobles led all Huskies with 19 points, which helped lead the Huskies to a 30-point victory.

Helena girls snap Warriors’ win streak

The Helena Huskies went on the road and snapped Thompson’s four game winning streak Monday, Dec 14 as they slowly pulled away in the fourth quarter.

The win gives the team momentum as they now have just one more game to play in 2020. Thompson (7-3) came out hot at home quickly taking a 9-2 lead after four minutes of play.