Darrien Oliver leaped high into the stands, joining his fans. No small feat, since the senior lineman is listed as 5 feet 10, 250 pounds. But Helix Charter High School wore Eagle’s wings Saturday night after beating the best Division II high school team in Northern California 35-24 in the state championships.
Another high-flier was star quarterback Brandon Lewis, quoted in The San Diego Union-Tribune as saying: “I’m on Cloud 9. I don’t remember the plays right now. I feel that I’m floating on air.”
Del Oro High School of Loomis, northeast of Sacramento, discovered what all but one Helix foe found this magical season—the Scotties find a way to win big.
Helix executive director Rani Goyal stood with coach Troy Starr as the school accepted its first ever state championship trophy in football. Grossmont district schools Superintendent Ralf Swenson, a former prep football coach in North Dakota, savored the moment as well.
Starr had trouble describing his victorious return to Carson and the Home Depot Center (after coaching in the Los Angeles CIF section, where he won a City title in 1998 with Woodland Hills Taft).
“I’m at a loss for words,” he said. “It’s just spectacular.”
But Starr told MaxPreps.com: “It’s the best offensive and defensive lines I’ve ever coached. It’s the guys up front. That’s where it starts.”
Del Oro coach Casey Taylor expressed admiration for his players, telling the Sacramento Bee: “Our guys were so resilient. They’d play another quarter if it was allowed. We were a little shellshocked there in the second quarter, but we came back.”
In fact, the Golden Eagles scored their final points on a blocked Helix punt and runback for a touchdown—with 35 seconds left in the game.
Starr didn’t see it, though. He was being showered with Gatorade.
Coming out of the tunnel at halftime, Del Oro players were cheered by former foes Westlake High School—the only other team this season to beat the Golden Eagles.
But Westlake’s luck was no better at Carson. They lost the open division title to ever-powerful De La Salle High School of Concord 35-0.
Del Oro, whose team and hundreds of fans traveled more than 400 miles for their first visit to Carson, drew first blood with a field goal on its first possession—after opening the game with an onside kick that the special teams recovered.
But a Darrion Hancock TD run put Helix up 7-3 with 4:24 left in the first quarter.
The Golden Eagles—wearing yellow and black—came back with 10:11 left in the second quarter to take the lead 10-7.
After a penalty negated a Highlander touchdown pass to Jimmy Pruitt, Helix scored on the very next play when Lewis connected with Gary Thompson on a long score with 7:25 to go in the first half.
Helix led 14-7 and never looked back, going into halftime ahead 28-10 after a Michael Adkins run and a Kendal Keys catch.
Lewis was 11-for-16 passing and accounted for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
The slightest of sprinkles started at 6:10 p.m.—more than 2 hours after the game began. Few cared, and only some sideline officials and cheerleaders brought out umbrellas or raincoats.
The Highlanders finished the season 13-1, and the Golden Eagles 13-2.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience to be here with my friends,” Del Oro senior Nick O’Sullivan told his local newspaper. “Helix is a good team. They’re very physical. They displayed good sportsmanship.”
And at the home of Major League Soccer champion L.A. Galaxy, the Scotties starred on a night of nights.