Helena has unfinished business on its 2021 schedule

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

There weren’t many teams in the county impacted more by COVID-19 last year than the Helena Huskies, who were forced to miss three weeks in a row in the middle of the season due to the virus.

The Huskies, however, responded with three wins in a row to end the season and earn a spot in the postseason where they upset Carver-Montgomery.

Now, they get to build off that strong finish by entering this season with confidence ahead of a schedule that features seven home games and just three on the road.

Not only that, but the Huskies will play seven of their first eight games at Husky Stadium, including their first four in a row.

It will all start with a senior night game against Dallas County on Friday, Aug. 20 to kick off the season.

Helena won last year’s game 43-0 and should be able to start the season with a similar win this year with Dallas County not only a Class 4A school, but also having to make a late coaching change in July.

The Huskies will then be looking for redemption the next two weeks with matchups against Chelsea and Wetumpka at home Aug. 27 and Sept. 3, respectively.

Helena saw a two-game win streak against Chelsea end last year in a 27-23 loss to the Hornets. The last four games in a row in the series have been decided by seven points or less, while three have been decided by four points or less.

That should make for an exciting matchup once again with the winner gaining confidence heading into region play.

And Helena will need that confidence with one of its toughest region games against Wetumpka looming a week later during the opening week.

The Huskies have never beaten Wetumpka, but lost 28-22 last year and 28-21 in 2016.

This year’s game should be another tight battle, but Helena will have to have some lineman gain quick experience to have a chance in the region opener.

A week later on Sept. 10, Helena will play its fourth consecutive home game to open the season when Benjamin Russell comes to town.

The Wildcats had a down year last season with Helena winning the game 48-14. If the Huskies can replicate that success this year, they’ll hope to be off to a 2-0 start in region play, which could set up a big battle the next week.

Last year, head coach Richie Busby said the Huskies seemed to be finding their groove right when COVID-19 hit the program.

It forced them to forfeit games against Pelham and McAdory the next two weeks before having Chilton County forfeit the week after for three consecutive weeks without a contest on the field.

Helena went on to finish second in the region last year despite that stretch, but the forfeit against Pelham possibly kept them from having a chance at the region title.

That makes the showdown at Pelham on Sept. 17 one of the biggest games in the county this season.

It will mark Helena’s first road game of the season, and while last year’s game counted as a loss, the last time the two stepped on the field, the Huskies picked up a 62-20 win.

The Panthers are slightly more experienced going into the season, but by that point in the year, both teams should be set for an exciting battle.

Helena will return home for three games in a row following that clash, starting with a non-region battle against McAdory on Sept. 24.

The Yellow Jackets will have a new coaching staff this year, but the game could be a tossup depending on who is healthier or clicking more midway through the season.

The Huskies lost 35-13 in 2018, but redeemed that loss with a 38-14 win two years ago before last year’s forfeit.

Helena will then return to region play on Oct. 1 to take on Chilton County. The Tigers finished 1-9 last year with their lone forfeit coming against the Huskies.

They should be improved this year, but Helena has beaten Chilton a combined 43-13 in the two previous games between the two and should be the favorite this year.

Helena will then play its final home game of the regular season in a Thursday night matchup with county foe Calera on Oct. 7.

The Huskies won last year’s game in a tight 14-13 battle. This year’s matchup should be intriguing with the Eagles under new head coach Jason Hamlin.

Both teams will be breaking in new players at key positions, so whichever has progressed the most throughout the season will pick up the region win.

Region play will come to an end on Oct. 15 with a road trip to Stanhope-Elmore. Last year, the Huskies won the first-ever meeting between the two by a final of 25-18, which ended up being key in earning them home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Following a bye week, Helena will hit the road to take on UMS-Wright in the final game of the regular season on Oct. 29.

The Huskies won last year’s game 12-7, which cemented home-field advantage in the first round of the postseason.

UMS is a 5A team, but the Bulldogs won the state championship in 2019 and went on to advance to the quarterfinals last year, making them a tough out every year.

The win last year, however, gave the Huskies confidence going into the postseason to take down Carver-Montgomery, and they’ll hope to have the same success late this year as well.