FOOTBALL: Grandfalls-Royalty keeps healthy mix of fun and games
GRANDFALLS, Dec 06, 2012 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
If Joe Helms has learned anything in his first season as the Grandfalls-Royalty High School football coach, it's that the kids both work hard and play hard.
The Cowboys have demonstrated their work ethic all season long while winning 13 consecutive games to make the deepest postseason run in school history.
Grandfalls-Royalty (13-0) faces No. 3 Follett (8-4) in the Six-Man Division II state semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Snyder's Tiger Stadium.
But along the way, the Cowboys also have demonstrated how much they like to play, which Helms feels also has played a big factor in their success.
"This is an odd team," said Helms, an 18-year coaching veteran that has been to the state quarterfinals four times but has never led a team this far. "They're very rarely serious about much of anything. I told (assistant) Coach (Juan) Rios a number of times, 'If they're ever not acting like idiots on the bus ride over, then we're in trouble.' "
The Cowboys don't carry a single senior on the squad, as the 14-player roster has seven juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
Grandfalls-Royalty has been able to mask its youth with veteran-like performances on the football field.
The Cowboys average 57 points per game and have allowed just 99 points all season, 76 of those coming in the postseason.
But at other times off the field, the team has not done a very good job of hiding it.
Helms recalled one of those instances before the regional playoff against Robert Lee, which to that point was going to be the stiffest challenge Grandfalls-Royalty had faced all season.
"They're loose kids," Helms said. "But when it's game time, they step up and play hard."
Gilbert Nunez hooked up with Thomas Burns on a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to lift Grandfalls-Royalty to a 34-30 win over Robert Lee, which was the first of only two four-quarter games the Cowboys have played all season.
All 10 regular season games, plus the opening playoff win over Loop, was called early because of six-man's 45-point mercy rule.
Sophomore end/cornerback Julian Helms, who also is the coach's son, says the team is well aware of when to get serious.
"My dad likes to have just as much fun as the next guy," Julian Helms said. "But when it comes time to practice and time to focus, he doesn't want any more messing around."
Which to the Cowboys' credit, they don't have a problem getting serious when it's time to take care of business.
Julian Helms suggested that it might help that his dad also serves as the school's principal.
"You don't want to get in trouble at practice, because then the principal already knows," Julian Helms said.
Joe Helms said so far the fun hasn't got in the way of what the team has set out to accomplish this season.
"I haven't had any problems with a lack of focus and it's been surprising to me," Helms said. "Even when I occasionally lose my cool in practice, bring it to a halt and we do some up-downs to refocus, they've paid attention enough to know what we're doing. I think a lot of the goofiness is just nervous energy."
Energy the Cowboys hope will carry over into the semifinal matchup with Follett, and help get them one step closer to the program's first state title.
--Follow Mike Whitson on Twitter at @OAWhitson
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