No. 3 Silver Creek (5-3) will be looking for redemption tonight when it squares of with No. 2 Randolph in Section 6 Class D semifinal varsity football action.
After falling to Maple Grove (8-0) in its season opener, 23-14, Silver Creek lost another heart-breaker to Randolph (6-2), 13-12.
"I think we lost those two games by a total of nine or 10 points," Helmer said. "So we were in the games. I think Maple Grove was definitely better than us and Randolph, you know, we had the game, we just kind of let it slip away."
Zeddie Williams (44) will look to help Silver Creek get back to Ralph Wilson Stadium tonight, as the Black Knights take on the Randolph Cardinals in a Section 6 Class D semifinal, in Randolph.
The Black Knights, an honorable mention in the New York State Sportswriters Association Class D poll this week, have played much better the latter half of the season, but Helmer and his players know the No. 15 Cardinals are much more seasoned as well.
"Normally I'd say a lot," Helmer said of whether or not having faced the Cardinals earlier in the year will help his team's preparation for tonight's game. "But we've changed completely and I think they've made a couple of major personnel changes. I think they're a better team than when we played them, but at the same time, I think we're a better team than when we played them. I think the advantage is our kids aren't intimidated. They're used to playing in pretty big games, so they'll be excited, they won't be in awe. I think we'll be ready."
After a 22-7 win over International Prep at Grover Cleveland got the taste of two tough losses out of their mouths, the Black Knights took two steps back, falling to No. 5 Portville (5-3), 37-14.
"We weren't executing and we weren't doing a lot of things right," Helmer said. "So we made a few offensive changes, made a few personnel changes and spelled it out to the kids and told them about the things that we were going to stick with and they didn't quit. They just bought in and kept fighting. Once we got a little momentum, things started coming a little easier and kids got a little more excited and everything works a little better when you're winning."
That swing in momentum began with a 30-20 win over Cattaraugus-Little Valley (1-7) and continued through wins over Frewsburg (3-5), the team the Black Knights beat last week 33-8 to reach the Sectional semifinals, and Chautauqua Lake (4-4). And now, after outscoring its opponents 101-20 its last three games, Silver Creek is in position to get back to Ralph Wilson Stadium to play for its second Section 6 title in the last three seasons.
"We talked about that from the get go," Helmer said. "You start questioning yourself when you rack up a couple losses. You question what you're doing and why things aren't working the right way. But we knew that we could get to that position if we started moving in the right direction. And you've got to credit the kids for buying into that. We didn't make any major schematic changes or anything like that. It was just, 'guys, we've got to be a little more fundamentally sound and we've got to take care of the mistakes, because we're killing ourselves.'"
The last time the Black Knights had a chance to reach the Sectional final, they were led by a set of brothers named Williams - Zach and Zeddie. This season, they'll look to do the same, as Zeddie, now the older brother and one of the Black Knights' unquestioned leaders, will team with younger brother, Sherman, to form a formidable backfield.
"I think you rely on those guys," Helmer said. "They're work horses. Zeddie has more potential everytime he touches the ball than most kids I've ever worked with. I think Tyler Bain is a big key and Nick Iskra.
"It's a team game," Helmer continued. "If all 23 guys that we dress play great, we have a really good shot. It all has to fall into place. They all have to do their jobs."
As much confidence as Helmer has in his Black Knights, he also knows that Randolph has some firepower of its own.
"I think (Jordan Dowiasz) is a good back," Helmer said. "And as most Randolph backs do, they get better and better as the season goes, as they start understanding blocking in front of them. I think their quarterback is one of the better throwing quarterbacks that they've had and the tight end is a player. They're big up front ... It's hard to pick out one kid. They've always had a team model and you can't just eliminate just one (player)."
Along with talent, Helmer also knows that his team will have to catch a break or two if they plan on getting back to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"We talked about keep moving forward and keep getting better each day," Helmer said. "We'll need a few bounces here or there, and we'll have to play great. Randolph is a fantastic football team and that's what it'll take to beat them."
No matter how the game turns out tonight, Helmer knows that his players are grateful for the opportunity that lies ahead of them.
"They're real excited," Helmer said of his team being one win away from playing for a second Sectional title in three seasons. "I always tell (the team), 'look, most kids never get a chance (to play for a Sectional title).' And there's guys on the team that this could be their second opportunity and the guys that didn't get to play in that game, a lot of them dressed. So they got a taste, but they want to actually be able to play in the game.
"We've talked about earning another chance to play," Helmer said. "It just so happens this time they'd earn a chance to play at (Ralph Wilson Stadium)."