by Christopher Mohr
September 21st, 2010 (San Diego) - Darrien Hancock rushed for a personal best total of 233 yards and scored the winning touchdown as the Highlanders of Helix High School defeated the Cathedral Catholic Dons on their home field in Carmel Valley by a score of 14-7 Friday night. Helix overcame penalties, dropped passes and a tough Dons defense to pull out the win against the defending 2009 Division III CIF champions.
In spite of Hancock's impressive rushing statistics, the Highlanders offense struggled for much of the game. Their first scoring play actually came from the defense when Jimmy Pruitt intercepted a pass from Cathedral quarterback Garrett Bogart and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to put Helix ahead 7-0 in the second quarter.
Pruitt's play was a huge boost to the Highlanders, whose offense struggled to find any momentum. Three of the first five drives for Helix were hampered by holding penalties; the other two drives consisted of a turnover on downs and a missed field goal attempt by Vann Sabin.
Cathedral's offense also struggled throughout the first half due to a stingy Helix defense. In addition to Pruitt's 'pick six', the Dons had three drives end with punts and one on downs. As a result, the two teams went into the intermission with the Highlanders ahead 7-0.
Cathedral took the second half kickoff and wasted no time tying the score. All eight plays on their 80 yard drive were running plays, with six of them to Jonny Martin. He accounted for 66 of the 80 yards on the drive, scoring on a 40 yard run that tied the game 7-7, and likely gave some Helix fans a feeling of uneasiness dating back to the 2009 game between the two teams. In that game, Martin rushed for 231 yards, aiding the Dons to a 41-19 blowout win at Helix.
Futility on offense continued for the Highlanders for the rest of the third quarter and almost half of the fourth. The passing game proved to be problematic on one drive when Helix quarterback Brandon Lewis was flagged for intentional grounding and later threw an interception to Cathedral's Kale Evans. That drive was followed by another that ended with a missed field goal attempt.
"Like coach Starr said, 'Fight through adversity,' a lot of bad calls on my part, a lot of missed throws, a lot of mistakes, we fought, we kept fighting. The defense stepped up for us big time."
Helix chose to stay mostly on the ground in the fourth quarter. They frequently gave the ball to Hancock, who was perhaps the only player on offense not struggling with his game. He scored on a four yard run with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter to give the Highlanders a 14-7 lead. The play was set up with a bulldozing seven yard run by Raymont Nailon and an eight yard bootleg run by Lewis.
Whether he punished defenders running the ball or with his hard-hitting blocks, Nailon's hard-nosed play helped the Highlanders ice the game in the fourth quarter. As you would expect from a power runner, Nailon enjoys his bruising style of play.
"I'm a team player, I like helping my team no matter what, and if it's blocking, I'll give a good block for my teammates, because I want to get a win for my team," Nailon said about his role, "I like hitting people, it's pretty fun."
"That's our lightning and thunder right there," Lewis said about the team's running backs, "Hancock and Nailon, Hancock provides the speed part and Nailon gets the tough yards."
Cathedral responded by changing quarterbacks as Luke Ramsey replaced Bogart in an apparent attempt to spark the Dons' offense. The move had little effect as Cathedral's offense generated a combined total of -2 yards on their final two drives of the game. The Dons' futility allowed Helix to escape with a 14-7 win.
"Last year we got demolished by this team at our home field, so we feel we needed to get revenge on them," Hancock said about the win.
Martin had a good performance, rushing for 159 yards on 25 carries in a losing effort for the Dons. Although impressive, it was not a repeat of last season's game that left many Helix fans searching for the Maalox.
With the season about one-fourth over, both teams are heading in opposite directions. Helix improved to 3-0 with the win and faces San Diego Morse (2-1) at home on September 24th. Cathedral drops to 0-3 and travels north to face Carlsbad (2-0).
Christopher Mohr is a freelance writer in the San Diego area and is an avid Chargers, Padres and
H - Pruitt 37 interception return (Sabin kick)
CC - Martin 40 run (Roman kick)
H - Hancock 4 run (Sabin kick)