SPRING VALLEY — During preseason practice, the Mount Miguel High School football team nicknamed itself the "Thunder Midgets" because it was populated by small players with big ideas.
Now the "Thunder Midgets" can go by another title. They are Grossmont League 3A champions.
Mount Miguel accomplished this with a 14-0 victory Friday night over Helix High, the San Diego Section's No. 8-ranked team. It was the second league title in three years for Mount Miguel (3-0 in conference, 7-2 overall). Helix is 3-1 and 6-2-1.
Using its superior team speed, Mount Miguel scored all its points in the first quarter and then let its defense take over.
"I don't think they knew what we'd really be doing," Mount Miguel Coach Gary Cooper said. "We popped a couple quick ones and then it became what we call close-to-the-vest football. We let the defense do what they've done best--win ball games for us."
Mount Miguel scored on its first possession of the game when quarterback Anthony Rivera scored on a keeper from the one-yard line. The score was set up by a 41-yard pass from Rivera to wide receiver Earl Benson, who caught the ball on a quick slant pattern and outran the Helix backfield to the one.
After a Helix punt, Mount Miguel took over on its own 30. On the first play from scrimmage, running back James Cuevas took a delayed handoff at the line, broke into the secondary and outraced three Helix defenders for a 70-yard touchdown run.
The extra point gave Mount Miguel a 14-0 lead with 5:28 remaining, and that was all it needed for its sixth straight victory. It was the first time this season Helix had allowed more than one touchdown in a game.
"They popped a couple quick ones on us and it was over," Helix Coach Jim Arnaiz said. "After that, it was an even ball game."
After the second touchdown, the Mount Miguel offense was content to keep the ball on the ground while the Matador defense recorded its fourth shutout of the season.
The Mount Miguel defense continually pressured Helix quarterback Tim Zeddies, who was 5 of 14 for 44 yards and 2 interceptions. The bulk of the Helix offense came from running back Kerry Barr, who gained 115 yards on 17 carries.
Cuevas led all rushers with 126 yards on 11 carries. Mount Miguel running back Charlie Ray added 65 yards on 17 carries and Rivera was 3 of 6 for 52 yards and 1 interception.
"You put us on paper and we look terrible," Cooper said. "but we've got desire, we've got heart."
Mount Miguel also has a Grossmont League 3A title.