All eyes on Eagles
Del Oro High hosted one of Southern California’s top teams back in September, falling in overtime to Westlake in the Battle at the Capital.
This weekend the Golden Eagles are battling another top team from SoCal, this time for the ultimate prize — a state championship.
Del Oro will face Helix on Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson for the CIF State Division II Bowl Championship.
Coach Casey Taylor is hoping his team’s experience early in the season will pay off.
“The game against Westlake was on a big stage, in front of about 8,000 people,” Taylor said. “I think we got some confidence from that and we’ve played several tough games this season, so hopefully that will help us late in the game on Saturday.”
Del Oro (13-1) hasn’t lost since the heartbreaking game against Westlake, which will face De LaSalle in Saturday’s Open Division Bowl Championship at 8 p.m.
The Highlanders (12-1) have also won 12 straight games. They haven’t been challenged since a season-opening loss to Eastlake. They’ve won each of their 12 games by at least 21 points and haven’t allowed more than one touchdown in a game since September.
“They’re real big, strong and fast,” Taylor said of the Highlanders, who are also known to their fans as the Scotties. “They’re explosive. They have aas good of a defensive line as we’ve seen all year. We have our hands full.”
Helix uses its speed to overwhelm opponents on defense. Linebacker Kacy Smith was the Defensive MVP in the San Diego Section while linemen Amu Milo and Gary Thompson were first-team selections on the all-San Diego Section team.
Helix’s offense is strikingly similar to Del Oro’s attack. The Golden Eagles feature bruiser Nick O’Sullivan and speedster Brandon Monroe, who have combined for 2,947 yards and 45 touchdowns this season. The Highlanders’ go-to back is senior Darrion Hancock (92.8 yards per game). Michael Adkins is also dangerous (82.5 yards per game).
Quarterback Brandon Lewis is Helix’s leader, earning Offensive MVP honors in the San Diego Section. He’s passed for 34 touchdowns and 2,750 yards. Del Oro senior Bobby Heatherington hasn’t put up monstrous numbers, but he’s efficient. Heatherington has passed for 22 touchdowns and 2,133 yards with just six interceptions.
Del?Oro’s defense has excelled in the postseason. Junior Dalton Hudec has turned into a playmaker on the defensive line while Alex Mason, Ashwin Cardenas and?Tanner Woods have also emerged.
Seniors Alex Bertrando and Tanner Huber anchor the linebacking corps.
In the secondary, defensive back Blake Covey has been outstanding, with five interceptions. Safety Austin Soldano and cornerback Russell Smith are also key players.
Taylor is anticipating a tight game that could come down to turnovers, field position and third-down conversions. The Del Oro game plan won’t change much as the Eagles look to run right at opponents and mix in the pass to keep teams off balance.
“We’ve got a great group that’s been doing it all year,” Taylor said. “Third down conversions will be key. We want to attack and be aggressive and we can’t give up big plays. If we win the battle of field position and keep it close we feel we’ve got a great chance in the fourth quarter.”
A new “Astro Turf” field awaits the teams at the Home Depot Center in Carson and clear skies are expected on Saturday with a high near 70 degrees. Several thousand black and gold-clad Del Oro supporters are expected in Carson and thousands more will watch on Comcast Sports Net and listen in on KAHI.
“It’s obviously a big stage, but that’s why we play a schedule like we do,” Taylor said. “We’ve talked about it and we try to approach it like any other game. We tell them to not get caught up in the moment and just play our game.”
CIF State Division II Bowl Championship: Del Oro?(13-1) vs. Helix (12-1), 4 p.m.
On the web: Follow @PlacerSports on Twitter for updates throughout the game
Radio: KAHI 950 AM (pre-game show at 3:30 p.m.)
TV: Comcast Sports Net California