Helena shuts out Calera to earn home playoff game

Published 10:48 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HELENA – A year after falling short of the playoffs following a loss to the Calera Eagles on the road, the Helena Huskies not only got revenge and cemented a spot in the playoffs on Friday, Oct. 20, but they earned a home playoff game and a chance to play for the region championship.

In a dominant effort, the Huskies took down county foe Calera 49-0 to guarantee at least the two seed and a home playoff game out of the region, while it set up a game against Benjamin Russel on Friday, Oct. 27 where a Helena win would give the team a region title.

“We played pretty clean in the first half,” Busby said after the win. “I thought we needed to do a better job in the second half to get some cleaner running lanes for the running backs and we did. We schemed up some things at half time.”

The win also gave the Huskies a victory on senior night, which head coach Richie Busby was pleased to see.

“A lot of our seniors, Travis McDaniel, Hudson Pennington, Caleb Haney, scoring touchdowns on senior night during their senior year. Guys I know have waited their turn to play and the good Lord was shining down on us with that tonight,” Busby said.

Helena started a big first half with an early offensive statement when the Huskies marched 68 yards in 11 plays for a 1-yard touchdown run from Domynyck Santiago.

That was the start of a big half and night overall for Helena.

The game did slow down after that first score for a portion of the opening quarter, but another strong drive down the field set up Jordan Washington for a 5-yard touchdown run that put the Huskies in front 14-0 with 32 seconds to play in the quarter.

Helena then earned good field position after forcing a Calera punt from the Eagles’ own 7-yard line.

The Huskies took over at the Calera 24-yard line and quickly scored on Washington’s second touchdown of the night to make it 21-0 with 8:57 left in the opening half.

It looked like that might end up being the halftime score, but Helena had one more big play up its sleeve.

After a sack put Helena in a difficult spot late in the half, the Huskies responded on a touchdown pass from Carson Acker to Travis McDaniel to cap off a 50 second drive that put Helena in front 28-0 going into the halftime break.

The Huskies wasted no time picking up where they left off in the first half with a quick three-and-out defensively to set up a 1:13 drive for the offense that was capped off by another rushing touchdown from Santiago to make it 35-0 with 8:42 left in the third.

“We’re blessed,” Busby said of the running backs. “The one thing we have had here every year is good running backs. Dom, if he wasn’t playing behind these two guys, he’d be a starter anywhere else.”

Then, after another defensive stand, backup quarterback Nate Ferguson hit Hudson Pennington for a touchdown pass that made it 42-0.

That led into the final quarter where Helena closed out the shutout victory with one final touchdown pass, this time from Ferguson to receiver Caleb Haney to complete the 49-0 win.

The Huskies improved to 8-0 with the win and 5-0 in region play, setting up a showdown with Benjamin Russell, who improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in region play with a 25-21 comeback win against Briarwood.

“This would be the first senior class to win two region championships in their four years, so that would be big and it would be our third in six years,” head coach Richie Busby said after the game. “That’s good for our program. I told the guys, no matter what happens in the Briarwood game tonight, we still want to go to Ben Russell and play good football. It will be a playoff atmosphere.”