Helena overcomes early deficit to beat Homewood in region opener

Published 11:45 pm Friday, September 8, 2023

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By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Reporter

HOMEWOOD – A gutsy comeback fueled the Helena Huskies on Friday, Sept. 8 when they marched their way to a 3-0 start to the season, defeating the Homewood Patriots 31-17 on the road to open region play.

After a slow start in the first quarter where the Huskies found themselves trailing by 10, Helena took the game by a storm with a powerful running game like the one it saw against Buckhorn last week to score 31 points in a row at one point en route to the 14-point win.

After losing last year’s matchup to the Patriots, this victory made for a big momentum booster to start region play in 2023.

“We told them before the game that Homewood with their tradition is not going to lay down for you,” Helena head coach Richie Busby said after the game. “It kind of played out like we thought it would. We thought we would face some adversity, and that’s the first adversity we had really faced all year long going down 10-0. We got the ship righted back and made a couple of plays.”

Busby was proud of how his team faced adversity and pulled out a region win on the road early in the season.

The second half opened up with Helena’s defense forcing a three and out on Homewood’s offense. The punt that followed proved to be huge, as Hunter Hale drew a 15-yard penalty on the Patriot punt coverage team to get them a great starting fielding position.

That drive was run almost entirely by star running back Jordan Washington, who capped the drive off with a 1-yard run up the gut after making several positive runs prior.

“I wouldn’t want to tackle Jordan all night long either if I was on the other side,” Busby said. “Our offensive line, we corrected some things. Homewood is always going to make you put the ball in the air to beat them. Coach Lawrence does a great job and they’re going to make you throw it a little bit to open up some running lanes, and we got a few, and he got his yards and that kind of stuff. But he’s just a hard worker, and I said it the other day that he gets better as the game goes on, it just seems like that’s the way he is, and I’m just super proud he wears a Helena jersey every Friday night.”

Homewood was beginning to move the ball until its offense stalled around midfield, where Parker Copeland picked up a huge sack to force a Patriot punt.

Carson Acker began to pick up steam at this point in the third quarter, hitting a big 35-yard pass to Torrey Ward before completing a monstrous 27-yard pass to star receiver Hunter Hale for the score to put the Huskies up by 14 with 4:20 remaining in the third.

The Helena defense got two big turnovers on the next two Homewood drives with an interception from Kevin Pinkard and a forced fumble recovery from Joseph Roberto to help keep Homewood from picking any sort of momentum back up, and that ultimately helped them secure a padded victory.

“We just told them [the defense] at halftime ‘look, we took their shot.’ We knew they were going to come out at us,” Busby said. “We took their shot and we weathered it, and coach made some adjustments on defense, which he does every week. We took away what they were trying to do, and our defense, they didn’t panic.”

The entire first half of this game proved to be a battle for both offenses, as the defenses controlled the game early, each in their own ways.

The Patriots opened up the scoring by dominating the running game in the midst of the first quarter, as the Helena defense could not seem to find an answer to what the Homewood offense was putting out.

Late in the first, after a drive where Helena stalled, Homewood drove the length of the field to the red zone but could not push any farther. The drive was not all lost though, as kicker Whit Armstead hit a short field goal to put the Patriots up 10-0.

That score carried into the second quarter, as the Homewood defense stopped Helena from moving the ball and forced the Huskies to punt to end the first, giving the Patriots decent field position. Helena did not stay out of it for long, though.

Following a drive where Helena’s defense forced a punt, the Huskies’ offense led by Acker got the ball rolling with a couple short passes to get the team down field. Washington helped to capitalize the drive with two big runs inside the red zone, including a 1-yard run to put Helena on the board.

That is all it took to get the Helena defense fired up. On the ensuing Homewood possession, Helena forced a key fumble with around two minutes left to get the ball back in Patriot territory.

The Huskies took advantage of this, and while they did not score a touchdown to take the lead, they tied it up with a short James Lewis field goal to make it 10-10 heading into the half. This gave Helena all the momentum needed to fuel a big second half.

Washington led the Huskies in the end zone with two touchdowns of his own, putting in a lot of his production inside opposing territory. Joseph Roberto also had a big game of his own, scoring a touchdown late to add on to the fumble recovery he had in the second half.

Acker posted an impressive 20-for-24 passing with 142 yards and a touchdown to Hale. Hale earned 47 yards off nine catches, which was behind leading receiver Ward, who had five catches for 75 yards.

Washington finished the night from the backfield with 25 carries, 86 yards and two touchdowns.

On defense, Nate Thomason was the Huskies’ leading tackler with nine tackles, including a sack and a fumble recovery. Joseph Roberto had eight tackles along with a forced fumble, a fumble recovery on defense and 15 yards rushing and a touchdown on offense.

Kevin Pinkard had six tackles to go with his interception, and Jonathan Roberto earned six tackles and four pass breakups.

Helena heads back home next Friday night to take on another region foe in Chilton County.