The Helix (1-0) Highlanders showed San Diego area prep football fans why they came into the season with the section's top billing as well as a position amongst the state's elite. Coach Gordon Wood and his group of speedsters pulled out all the stops en route to a 43-35 victory over state No. 7 ranked Oceanside (0-1) on the Pirates' home turf. See here for more week one San Diego Section highlights.

When Oceanside took a 21-7 lead with 7:28 left in the half, it looked as though the Pirates were in a position to break a two-game losing streak to Helix dating back to the 2000 semifinal and 2001 section Division II championship games.

The Oceanside offensive and defensive lines, consisting of senior prospective "blue chippers" Jason Thompson (6-0, 270), Sergio Cabrerra (6-2, 255) and Bobby Byrd (6-7, 290) were consistently beating Helix off the ball and driving the Highlanders back from the line of scrimmage; while forcing two early fumbles from star running back Reggie Bush.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, senior running back Tyler Lavea went down with an injury on the next series and coach John Carroll was forced to go to an almost exclusive passing game.

Senior Quarterback Rick Koppack (6-1, 180) was brilliant in the face of Helix' constant blitzing (4 sacks), completing 24 of 51 passes for 319 yards and four TDs. Three of those TDs (12, 15, 17 yards) went to highly regarded senior wide receiver Jose Perez (6-1, 175), who ended the night with eight catches for 110 yards.

In fact, Koppack had the Pirates in a position at the Helix 20-yard line with seconds remaining where a touchdown and two-point conversion would have tied the game. Helix lineman Melvin Johnson (6', 275lbs) made sure that didn't happen, however, as he ended the game by recording his third sack of Koppack with time running out...sending the disappointed, overflowing crowd out into the night and its humid El Nino breezes.

On offense. the Highlanders proved that Reggie Bush does not have to run for 200 yards and four touchdowns for the team to win...but someone does!...and that someone was senior running back Derrel Hutsona (5-10, 160).

On Helix's first offensive play from scrimmage, Hutsona broke three tackles en route to a 40-yard gain. Although, Bush was able to score four plays later on a 6-yard sweep, Oceanside was intent on not letting the fleet footed back beat them as many had predicted he would. Having two or three defenders watch him every play limited Bush to 18 carries for 38 yards with one TD.

But Bush proved to be totally unflappable and may not be able to be completely stopped by anyone in the section. Despite the low rushing total, Bush had a 61-yard kickoff return, caught a 7-yard slant for a TD and threw a 93-yard TD pass, that traveled 50 yards in the air, to Charles Smith with 2:12 left in the contest and Helix clinging to a two-point lead deep in its own territory.

"It wasn't a set play," said a smiling Bush, "but Charles and I told coach we knew we could pull it off." Wood, acknowledging he had given the pair the green light to try the option pass also conceded that the players initiated it on that play.

For his part Hutsona was unbelievable. He sliced, diced, ran by and through tacklers for 213 yards on 10 carries. His three TDs were on runs of 13, 51 and 80 yards. "When they key on Reggie, somebody else has got to step it up," said Hutsona, who was obviously enjoying being part of the media spotlight. "Every time I get the ball I have a job to do"...and a job on Oceanside is what Hutsona did do...indeed.

During the recent three games both coaches as well as many of the players have developed a deep respect for each other. "Got away with one again," remarked a joyous Wood. "I hope people don't take this wrong, but I pray we don't play them again...even in the CIF. That was one good football team we played."

Now Helix must get ready in the next three weeks for Fallbrook at home, then Vista on the road, and finally El Camino at home on Sept. 27. "We'll be working on playing more consistently and taking care of things," said the Helix coach. What a scary thought for future opponents...and what great football we should see over the next three weeks.


La Costa Canyon breezes at home

Quarterback Kevin O'Connell (6-5, 190), who, according to the San Diego Union Tribune is being heavily pursued by new SDSU coach Tom Craft as well as several other Pac-10 schools, barely broke a sweat as he and his Maverick teammates scored 57 consecutive points after surrendering a first quarter touchdown to visiting Lompoc Cabrillo to nail a solid 57-7 opening game victory. O'Connell, who played just over two quarters, finished 8-for-13 for 181 yards and four touchdowns.

Santa Fe Christian solid on the road in Coronado

Coming off a dream 12-0 season and a No. 1 small school state ranking in 2001, former NFL great Brian Sipe begins his second year as head coach of the Eagles with what many believe is as good a team as last year's 12-0 squad. Coming into this season Santa Fe Christian is ranked No. 3 in the state in Division V. Friday night they did nothing to diminish that status with a bruising 42-21 victory over host Coronado. Junior running back Brandon Rush exploded for 235 yards on 15 carries and junior Alex Peltier had 25 carries for 145 yards. The prospect of facing the Santa Fe running juggernaut does not seem too appealing to the Eagles upcoming opponents who are faced with unseating the defending Division IV section champions.

Marian Catholic opens with an upset

The talented Crusaders opened the season by completely outplaying previous section No. 9 Monte Vista and showing opponents big and small that they are the team to beat again this year in the South Bay area of the San Diego Section. With Mission Bay's loss to the USDHS Dons, the Crusaders look like the early favorite in what looks like a wide open Division III that also includes St. Augustine and their heralded quarterback, Richard Kovalcheck. Running the football is what Marian does best and the 304 yards the Crusaders rolled up on the road against the favored Monarchs would seem to be the linchpin for their future successes. Junior Patrick Gates began where he left off last season with 149 yards on 12 carries including scoring runs of 20 and 66 yards to lead the Crusaders to the 27-7 victory. With the usual Division I and II schools on its schedule including perennial South Bay powerhouse Bonita Vista at home on October 4, Marian should be toughened up come playoff time.

University San Diego High School shocks Mission Bay

The surprise team in this year's San Diego Section race for a Division III title may very well be the Dons of USDHS. They made partial believers of many of the naysayers with an impressive 42-23 victory over the defending Division III Champion Mission Bay Buccaneers Friday afternoon at San Diego City College. Junior running back Rico Tucker, looking to establish himself as one of the top backs in the section made the most of his 5 rushes, scoring three times and totaling 125 yards while adding a masterful 81 yard kickoff return for a fourth score. The Dons would seem to have three relatively easy games before an October 11th showdown against St. Augustine at Southwestern College.

Note: Harold Abend is starting his second year as San Diego Section correspondent for Cal-Hi Sports. He also assists the CIF state office in public relations for the CIF state basketball championships.

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