FORT MILL — Some leaders are silent and lead by example. Others lead with the voices.
Dalton Helms does both.
Helms, the senior quarterback for Nation Ford High School, has written a new chapter for the Falcons’ football team over the past two seasons. He’s racking up numbers that often get overlooked by others while leading his team to the playoffs last season and having them on the verge of another playoff berth this season.
This season he is on pace to pass for more than
3,000 yards and has already thrown for 26 touchdowns in 10 games. Despite those numbers, he hasn’t been selected to any of the post-season all-star type games like the Shrine Bowl or the North-South game.
Although Helms is the first to say the personal accolades don’t matter to him like winning does, he does admit noticing that he’s been overlooked.
“I do what I can to do my part,” he said. “I can’t control what anybody else does or thinks about my team or me. I just kinda not worry about everything else. I just go out and play football and block everything else out. There are some times I think I am getting overlooked a little bit, but it happens to everybody, not just me. I keep working and hopefully I will get my chance.”
Helms and Nation Ford opened the season with a 57-56 win over Forestview on the road in Gastonia, N.C., where he passed for a school record 473 yards and six touchdowns.
“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “That last drive, we came out with a win. I had no idea how many yards I had. But it was a big surprise.”
Helms also had another six-touchdown performance against Lancaster in a win, and another 400-yard passing performance against York in a loss.
Wins over Forestview and Ridge View have highlighted his season, especially coming back against Ridge View after being down 28-7 and winning 31-28. He admits his senior season has been a surprise, even to him.
“I didn’t expect it to go this well,” he said. “Losing two outside receivers, I thought we would have to throw some shorter routes and run the ball more and take what the defense gives us, but we have had some people step up.”
For Helms, being the quarterback is something he is used to; it’s the position he’s played since age 7.
“It’s my most favorite thing to do,” Helms said.
“I like being able to touch the ball every play. I like having some role in what happens with the play every time. I like having the ball in my hands. It’s been like that ever since I was playing in little league.”
Helms has also done more than just lead Nation Ford by example. He has done it vocally as well. Going into an important game against Rock Hill Oct. 25, when it was a must-win for the Falcons to keep their playoff hopes alive, Helms gave a motivational speech to his teammates.
“A lot of it was a bunch of seniors, so I just told them they had three more [games] to strap it up, and some of them aren’t going to go play football in college and how do they want to go out and be remembered,” he said.
“It was one of those things that if we didn’t win, the Fort Mill game (this week) might be our last game and I told them, do they want our last game to be across town or do they want to travel somewhere and have a chance to go deeper in the playoffs? And it hit home for some of them. They came out ready to play. Our defense played really well. They kinda of bought into it. I though it helped.”
Helms’ leadership has also been noticed by Falcons head coach Michael Allen.
“Dalton has been a great leader for our program on the field, in the school, and in the community,” Allen said.
“He has demonstrated pride, passion, and perseverance during his stay. I think outside of the numbers, he has received some individual recognition along the way, and will continue to do so. I think there are times he gets over looked as do many other very successful athletes. The impressive characteristic of Dalton is that he is a team player and continues to press forward for the team regardless of the accolades or not. At the end of the day, Dalton will have left a very substantial footprint at Nation Ford in many ways. He has raised the bar both athletically and academically. He has a very bright future with any direction he and his family decided to pursue. Simply put, he is an exceptional person.”
Now Helms and Nation Ford look to accomplish another first for the school’s football program – beating Fort Mill. And to do that, Nation Ford, which opened in 2007, will have to be on top of their game as the Falcons haven’t beaten their crosstown rivals in the first six match-ups on the gridiron.
The annual Milltown Showdown is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bob Jones Stadium on the campus of Fort Mill High.
“We will have to put in a lot of work and watch a lot of film,” Helms said. “They have had our number the past however many years. It’s definitely big. It will help us regarding playoff spots and where we finish in the region. You don’t want to go out of here being one of those teams going 0-4 against Fort Mill. It’s definitely a big game.”
But being a senior, Helms also has his future on his mind, particularly which college to attend. He has options for playing college football, but he may take a different direction.
“I would like to play football,” he said. “It has kind of been my first choice all along to play football in college. But right now it isn’t going how I expected. I’m going to take the best offer I can get. The best place academically and the best place athletically. But right now I don’t know. Right now I would like to play football, but baseball isn’t out of the picture.”
Helms already has offers from Tusculum College in Tennessee, Presbyterian College and Campbell University in North Carolina for football. For baseball, he is considering Winthrop University, Furman University and UNC-Ashville. Helms, who plans on being a pre-med major, has his front-runners, but his mind isn’t made up.
“For baseball, it would have to be Winthrop or Furman, but for football, I like PC (Presbyterian) a lot,” he said. “I like their campus there and academics are a big thing for me. But I am just kind of going with the flow and figuring out the best option.”
For now, Helms is just trying to live in the moment and hopes that the standard he and his teammates are setting on the field will get noticed by future Nation Ford football players.
“Not just for me, but for the entire team, we are setting a precedence that others can match,” he said.
“Hopefully they are seeing we are building a winning program here and what we have established they can continue what we have been doing. And they can match that and go beyond that and one day, we will be one of those teams where you look on the schedule and say we have to prepare for that week.”