Helena uses strong first half to fend off Hornets

By GRAHAM BROOKS | Special to the Reporter

HELENA­—A 15-play fourth quarter touchdown drive and a dominant first half helped the Helena Huskies earn a big 27-14 win over in-county foe Chelsea on Friday, Aug. 27.

Coming off a dominating 55-0 win to start the season, Helena faced much tougher competition this week, as the Hornets traveled to Husky Stadium, but aside from a rocky stretch in the second half, the Huskies dominated the majority of the game to move to 2-0 on the season.

In the first half, Helena frustrated Chelsea quarterback Hayden Garrison leading to a couple of sacks, a lost fumble and an interception. This allowed Helena to grab a 20-0 halftime lead as the Helena passing game shined. The Huskies also were successful on two field goal tries.

Helena quarterback Mac Turner tossed three touchdown passes with wide receiver JC Sivley being a favorite target all night with the duo connecting on touchdown passes of 14 yards and 10 yards. Turner also opened the game with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Kaysn Bustamento.

Helena defensive coordinator Jim Elgin, who stepped in as interim head coach for Richie Busby as he dealt with family health issues, said the first half was big but the response Helena made late in the game when Chelsea mounted a comeback was a big difference.

“Well, we played real well the first half both sides of the ball and kind of dominated the game,” Elgin said. “They got the one to start the third quarter that obviously we don’t want to give away and it kind of threw us behind the 8-ball a little bit. When they scored the touchdown and we got the ball that was the whole thing we talked about with the offensive line over there is ‘guys, lets get first downs’ and we made some good throws, made some good runs and blocked well up front and just grinded them down. Obviously, that’s kind of the way we are.”

The “one” Elgin referred to came on the first play of the third quarter as Turner tried to hit Sivley over the middle but instead was intercepted by Chelsea’s Evan Jones who returned it for a touchdown to quickly cut Helena’s lead to 20-7 to start the third quarter.

After gaining momentum, Chelsea built on it late in the third quarter and into the fourth with a successful fake field goal attempt.

Chelsea holder Cooper Griffin took the ball at the Helena 8-yard line and plowed forward on fourth-and-6 to the Helena 1-yard line to set up Chelsea’s second touchdown.

A few plays later, Garrison made a clutch touchdown throw to MJ Conrad on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line to bring the Hornets to within six with the entire fourth quarter to play.

With the lead trimmed to 20-14, Helena was forced to respond and they did just that as they drove 82 yards in 15 plays.

A balanced attack of runs and passes helped Helena milk the clock as Sivley converted a third down with a big catch and Bustamento and Jordan Washington also made a solid runs during the drive.

Capping off the impressive drive, Turner found Sivley for the second time in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown that pushed Helena’s lead back to 27-14 with just 6:04 to play.

However, down by two scores Chelsea did not go away quietly. Needing a score quickly, Harrison and the Hornets faced a fourth-and-8 at the Helena 35-yard line. With the game on the line, Harrison lofted a ball to the end zone that was caught by Chelsea but the Hornets were flagged for offensive pass interference negating the touchdown with 3:17 to play.

Facing a fourth-and-22 after the penalty, Harrison was forced to heave the ball down the field which was intercepted by Helena. From there, the Huskies were able to run out the clock to preserve the two-score victory.

“In the end, we got pressure on them and I know they might say that they didn’t push off or whatever but hey, that’s football,” Elgin said. “I remember a call last year where that happened to us but it all evens out.”

Up next, Helena will open region play at home against Wetumpka on Sept. 3 while Chelsea will try to rebound on the road against Briarwood to open region play.