Helena flips switch to earn dominant homecoming win over Jackson-Olin

Published 12:04 am Saturday, September 30, 2023

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By STEPHEN DAWKINS | Special to the Reporter

HELENA – Helena stumbled out of the gate on Friday, Sept. 29, against visiting Jackson-Olin, but once the Huskies got going, it was another dominant win, 49-6.

It came on a night when Helena quarterback Carson Acker was nearly perfect, going 11-for-12 passing for 139 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

The first quarter started slowly for both offenses. It would stay that way for only one.

On the first possession of the game, Helena (6-0 overall, 3-0 in Class 6A, Region 3) faced a 3rd-and-10, and Acker’s pass was tipped by Jackson-Olin’s Marcus Gardner and then caught for an interception.

The visitors (0-6, 0-3 in Class 6A, Region 5) took over with good field position on Helena’s 48-yard line, but Jonathan Roberto for the Huskies sniffed out a swing pass on the first play for a loss. Then, it was Parker Copeland with a tackle in the backfield on third down to force a punt.

HHS seemed to find a rhythm, picking up two first downs and driving into scoring position, but this time, a lost fumble recovered by Jackson-Olin’s Joel Ray quelled the momentum.

The Helena defense forced another three-and-out and punt, and the hosts took over on their opponents’ 41-yard line.

Acker passed to Jarrett Scott down to the 11, but a holding penalty backed up Helena. It turned out that Acker just needed a bit more space to find Torrey Ward from 21 yards out for a touchdown on the next play.

James Lewis’ extra point made it 7-0 with 4:29 remaining in the first quarter.

That’s where the onslaught began. Over the next 13 minutes of game time, the Huskies scored 35 more points to quickly erase any doubt about the game’s outcome.

Seconds into the second quarter, HHS kept the offense on the field on fourth down from about the 10-yard line on the JOHS end of the field. The gamble paid off as Acker passed to Hunter Hale on a slant across the middle for a 14-0 lead after the extra point.

Copeland, Roberto and others for Helena pressured and hit Jackson-Olin’s Marquarius Davis on almost every pass attempt, and the defensive pressure turned into the next points of the game.

A sack deep inside JO territory dislodged the football, which was recovered by Roberto in the end zone to make it 21-0 with 10:14 on the clock in the second quarter.

The Mustangs moved the chains for the first time in the game during the ensuing possession, but it yielded nothing else but a shanked punt.

Taking over on the visitors’ 24-yard line, Helena needed just five seconds and one play—a pass from Acker to Hale—to extend the lead to 28-0 after Lewis’s point after was true.

Austin Acosta recovered a fumble on JO’s next play, and the Huskies were in business again. Acker found Hale from three yards out for a score to make it 35-0.

Another stop by the Helena defense gave Hale an opportunity for a punt return, and he made the most of it, running it back about 55 yards for a touchdown to stretch the lead to 42-0.

Hale finished the game with 78 yards off seven receptions as well as four touchdowns, three receiving as well as the punt return score.

HHS looked poised to score again before halftime, but a quarterback sneak on third-and-goal from the JO 3-yard line with 13 seconds left in the half was ruled short of the goal line, and time expired.

With a running clock, there were few highlights in the second half.

Jackson-Olin got on the board with a 61-yard pass from Davis to Jose Davis, but Helena stopped the 2-point conversion attempt.

Helena concluded the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run by Nathan Jones with about 2 minutes left in the game.

Jones had 64 receiving yards and a rushing touchdown, and Ward had 38 yards and a receiving touchdown.

Jordan Washington ran for 37 yards on nine carries as Helena coach Richie Busby let Washington recover from a heavy workload to start the season.

Helena will host Briarwood in a region matchup on Friday, Oct. 6. Then, the Huskies will have a bye week before closing out region play with two consecutive region games.