Schedule Breakdown: Helena takes on wide-open region in bid for playoffs

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

A year after just missing out on a playoff spot in Region 3, Helena is back and hungry to return to the postseason.

Even with Helena’s talented roster, anything can happen in Region 3, so the Huskies will need to bring their all every week to the region schedule and balance multiple county rivalries with their quest for the playoffs.

First, Helena opens the season for the second straight year with a Thursday night clash against Chelsea on August 24. While the county rivals played under the Cramton Bowl spotlight last year, the scene will shift to Helena this year. Chelsea has most of their weapons returning, which along with their classification advantage will make them the favorite, but Helena is dangerous enough to make it three in a row against the Hornets.

Afterwards, Helena hosts Buckhorn on September 1. The Huskies handled the Bucks last year with ease, but more importantly than securing a win here, this game will be important to give both sides of the ball one more chance to settle in before region play starts, especially with Helena’s questions at quarterback and on both sides of the line.

Helena won’t be eased into region play as they’ll travel to Homewood on September 8. The Patriots were the region champions last year, but they have questions at quarterback and are not unbeatable by any means. Helena showed as much last year in a nine-point loss to Homewood, and this year should bring another close game if the pair of playoff teams live up to their hype.

Next, Helena will play Chilton County at home on September 15. While Chilton County was winless in regional play last year, the two teams played an overtime thriller last year that the Huskies won 35-28. Helena has more talent and should win this meeting, but with this game in between tough contests with Homewood and Pelham, Helena can’t afford to overlook this game because of what is around it in the schedule.

On September 22, we will get the next chapter one of the fiercest rivalries in the county: Helena and Pelham. The Huskies have won every matchup with the Panthers since 2018, including an instant classic overtime game last season. Even without the rivalry, this should be a great battle of well-matched teams that should both contend for the playoffs in 2023.

Helena will remain on the road to close out the month of September as they face Jackson-Olin on September 29. This was another close game that Helena edged out a win in last year, and even though it is a non-region game, both teams should show up hoping to win this time around.

The Huskies will return home to face Briarwood on October 6 as they resume region play. Both teams face questions at quarterback, and it will be interesting to watch the two offenses develop before they meet just past the midseason mark. Helena and Briarwood also both have great defenses again, so whoever wins the day on that side of the ball will likely walk away victorious.

Helena will take their bye week on October 13, which gives them an extra week to prepare for the game they’ve had circled on their calendar since last year: Calera on October 20 for the final home game of the regular season.

The Huskies and Eagles faced off in a four-overtime battle that was one of the best games in the county last year, and the loss to Calera set off a downward spiral that knocked Helena out of playoff contention with a three-game losing streak. Helena will come in motivated and with a more experienced team, which could make the difference in a big county rivalry game.

For their region finale, Helena will travel to Alex City to take on Ben Russell on October 27. The Wildcats were a playoff team a year ago and are traditionally one of the strongest teams in the region, and a win for Helena would be a big statement. Not only that, but given its place as the final region game before the postseason, both sides could be jockeying for playoff positioning and need a win to either reach the playoffs or move up in seeding, which would add even more intrigue and importance to this showdown.

Finally, Helena will travel to Vestavia Hills on Thursday, November 2 for a non-region matchup to close the regular season. Even though Vestavia was a strong 7A team in 2022, the Huskies put together a solid second half in this matchup last year, so it will be interesting to see if Helena can improve on last year’s performance and make this a close game. It will be even more of an intriguing matchup if both teams make the playoffs as expected this year, as each coach will want the most momentum possible going into the postseason.

Then, if all goes to plan, Helena will be in the playoffs and ready to make another run at the 6A title thanks to the preparation that a difficult schedule brings.