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Rodgers and Hammerschmidt Tuned Up : Touchdown Composers Meet as Sweetwater Takes On Helix

Times Staff Writer

Sweetwater High tailback Terry Rodgers and Helix quarterback Jeff Hammerschmidt would fit perfectly on a fantasy league football team.

In fantasy league football, you receive six points for every touchdown scored or thrown by a player on your team. Rodgers ran for three touchdowns and Hammerschmidt threw four scoring passes in their team’s first-round playoff victories last weekend. The two senior backs will match talents in tonight’s San Diego Section 3-A semifinal game 7:30 at Southwestern College.

“They are impact players who make exciting things happen,” said Helix Coach Jim Arnaiz.

Rodgers had a county-high 28 touchdowns this season and scored all 20 points in Sweetwater’s 20-17 win over Fallbrook last Saturday night. The second-leading rusher in the county gained 171 yards on 23 carries, threw a 45-yard option pass, and made two touchdown-saving deflections from his safety postion. He also returns kicks.

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“He is definitely the key to our offense,” said Sweetwater Coach Gene Alim. “And our option makes him lethal when he gets the ball on the pitch.”

Rodgers took pitchouts 23 and 43 yards down the right sideline for first-half scores and bolted one yard off right tackle for the game-winning touchdown midway through the final quarter. He also ran for a two-point conversion that gave the Red Devils a three-point lead.

Hammerschmidt had an equally productive game in Helix’s 34-21 win over Morse last Friday night. He completed 13 of 16 passes for 208 yards and four touchdowns. The Highlanders continually beat the Tigers deep, scoring on passes of 69 and 34 yards to Terry Mack, 34 yards to Jeff Exum and 13 yards to Paul Appenzeller. In the first half, when the Highlanders capitalized on four Morse fumbles, Hammerschmidt completed his first 8 passes and 9 of his first 10.

Both Rodgers and Hammerschmidt are stars, game breakers and impact players. But they are far from being one-man teams. Sweetwater isn’t 11-0 and the holder of a 36-game winning streak and Helix isn’t 10-1 just because one of their players regularly finds the end zone.

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“Stopping Hammerschmidt is definitely a key,” Alim said. “He’s a super athlete who does a lot of good things with the football. But it’s not a one-man offense.”

Mack and Exum are dangerous wide receivers, and running backs Kerry Barr (113 yards on 25 carries against Morse), Eric Arcio and Sidney Baxter pace the fourth most productive offense in the county this season. Defensively, the Highlanders allowed only 8.9 points a game to rank sixth in the county.

Arnaiz is singing basically the same song as Alim.

“Sweetwater has very fine athletes,” Arnaiz said, “and we have to be careful not to over-compensate on Rodgers and thereby leave other athletes open. When you think you have to stop one specific player, you get burnt by someone else.”

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Someone like running back Martel Black or quarterback Steve Contreras, who will be making only his third start since replacing Richard Sanchez. Sanchez broke his ankle in the team’s next to last game of the regular season. Contreras, a linebacker and defensive captain, suddenly went from third-string quarterback to first string.

“Mike Portillo was our backup quarterback, " Alim said, “but we wanted to keep him at wide receiver and thought Steve would be a better all-round quarterback for us.”

Sweetwater turned the ball over a season-high five times (three fumbles and two interceptions) against Fallbrook, but Alim feels the revamped offense is starting to jell.

“At first, we were limited as to what we could do passing,” Alim said. “We were able to do a wider variety of things with Richard, but I think Steve ran the option well against Fallbrook and he made some big plays when he had to.”

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Contreras’ 39-yard keeper up the middle to the one-yard line set up Rodgers’ game-winning touchdown run. At that point, the top-ranked defense in the county took over by intercepting three Scott Barrick passes.

“Overall, I’d say Sweetwater has more speed and plays a little better defense than Helix,” said Castle Park Coach Dick Oliver, whose team lost to both Sweetwater and Helix this season.

What about tonight’s game?

“If you stop Rodgers or you stop Hammerschmidt,” said Oliver, “you are in good shape.”

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3-A Semifinal Playoff Game

Teams: Sweetwater and Helix High Schools

Where: Southwestern College, 900 Otay Lakes Road, Chula Vista

When: Tonight at 7:30

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Records: Sweetwater is 11-0, which includes a 20-17 first-round playoff win over Fallbrook. Helix is 10-1, which includes a 34-21 first-round playoff win over Morse.

Rankings: Sweetwater is No. 1 and Helix is No. 4.

Common Opponent: Sweetwater beat Castle Park 39-0 early in the season. Helix beat Castle Park 27-0 in its next to last game.

Last year: Sweetwater won the 3-A championship with a 28-13 victory over Vista. Helix was 8-2, but its 6-2 league mark was only good for fourth place in the Grossmont League.

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Players to Watch: Sweetwater: Terry Rodgers (5-10, 170, Sr., RB/Safety), Martel Black (6-2, 220, Sr., RB), Steve Contreras (6-0, 175, Sr., QB/LB). Helix: Jeff Hammerschmidt (5-10, 170, Sr. QB/DB), Jeff Exum (5-10, 160, Sr., WR), Terry Mack (5-10, 170, Sr., WR), Kerry Barr (5-11, 185, Jr., RB).


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