Only former UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland, known for calling timeouts en masse, could have appreciated what transpired at the end of the first half of Friday night's CIF state championship Division 1-AA regional bowl game between Westlake Village Oaks Christian and La Mesa Helix. There was a timeout spree rarely seen in football.
The ball was on the one-yard line. Oaks Christian faced fourth down. Lions coach Jim Benkert called the first timeout with 16.8 seconds left. Helix coach Robbie Owens called timeout after the Lions lined up. Then Benkert called his second timeout. Then Owens called the fourth consecutive timeout.
Zach Charbonnet finally was given the ball on a pitch and ran around the left side for a touchdown that gave Oaks Christian a 13-7 lead going into the half.
That was the last time the Lions led. Helix, the San Diego Section Open Division champion, rallied for a 28-13 victory with a strong second half, taking advantage of injuries to Oaks Christian's first- and second-string quarterbacks. Helix (13-1) advances to play Folsom in the bowl championship game next Friday at Sacramento State.
Rashad Scott gave Helix a 14-13 lead at the outset of the third quarter, returning a Josh Calvert interception 27 yards for a touchdown.
Then Isaac Taylor-Stuart extended the lead to 21-13 with a 16-yard touchdown reception from Carson Baker. And sophomore Elelyon Noa delivered the clinching touchdown on a 61-yard run with 2:43 left.
Noa finished with 188 yards rushing in 23 carries. The Highlanders had three interceptions in the second half.
Oaks Christian (12-3) had won games the last three weeks with late rallies, but this task was too much. Calvert injured his hip in the first quarter, returned to start the third quarter but couldn't finish.
Backup Marco Siderman went out in the third quarter after an injury on a run. Trae Johnson came in, drove the Lions down field, but Helix's defense rose up to stuff running back Charbonnet in the fourth quarter.
Charbonnet had 148 yards rushing in 26 carries.
Helix's cornerback tandem of Scott, a San Diego State commit, and the heavily recruited Taylor-Stuart is one of the best in Southern California. Helix left tackle William Payne also did an outstanding job against Oaks Christian defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who came in with 20 sacks. He didn't get any against Baker.
With Helix alum Reggie Bush on the sideline, the Highlanders scored on their opening possession, getting a 30-yard run from Baker. Oaks Christian settled for field goals of 25 and 37 yards from Ajay Culhane.
The Lions produced the biggest play at the end of the half. Helix went back to punt from its own 12. The Lions rushed aggressively, and punter Terrance McIntyre fumbled, with David Walker recovering on the eight. That set up a Charbonnet touchdown.
"We don't want this thing to end," Owens said. "It feels great we're moving on."