The two teams with the most votes in the current Helmet Bowl II National Championship Round are in the Eastern Regional and seeing that it is regional championship week, they currently face each other.
The Dickinson Red Devils verses the Lafayette Leopards. Both hail from Pennsylvania. Along Interstates 81 and 79, just 117 miles separate the two schools. The Red Devils are DIII while the Leopards are an FCS school. Still, Lafayette is the underdog in this contest.
This is a cornerstone of Helmet Bowl. Every division, every conference, every school, every helmet. A level playing field. Voters decide. One Champion.
Of course, six other teams vie for the Championship. First, though, one of these teams much get past the other.
Dickinson Red Devils
When Dickinson Assistant Athletic Director Christian Payne first heard about Helmet Bowl II, he huddled with his coaches, looked over the Red Devil’s modern helmet, and decided to go for it.
A year ago they didn’t know about Helmet Bowl and finished with a dismal ZERO points in the Centennial Conference.
This year, they've dominated. They knocked off the McDaniel Green Terror, then the Moravian Greyhounds to face last year’s Conference Champion Johns Hopkins in this years Championship. They gathered nearly twice the votes as the Blue Jays to win the Centennial Conference.
And continued that domination when they qualified for the Helmet Bowl II National Championship bracket. They beat the Tufts Jumbos and Misericordia Cougars and lead the Championship in votes. Then this week they squeaked by a strong effort by the Kentucky Christian Knights to face the Lafeyette Leopards in the East Regional Final.
Now Prowl the Leopards
The Leopards are building their own case for National Championship contention. This week they dispatched the defending Helmet Bowl National Champion Gallaudet Bison by a handful of votes. The Bison stormed into the championship round a year ago and were well on their way to challenging for a repeat. Lafayette somehow found a way to pull ahead.
It was the second close match the ‘Pards won. In Round 2, they won just by 20 votes against the New Jersey Lions. In Round 1 they won strong against the Kentucky State Thorobreds.
Lafayette entered the National Championship bracket after waltzing through three rounds to win the Patriot League Conference Championship.
“It's been fun,” said Anthony Martin, Director of Equipment at Lafayette. “When we talked about Helmet Bowl a few months ago, I said ‘Let's try to win it – at least the Patriot League.' I've been shocked at our success – it's the people around us.”
Martin, in his second year, spent six years on the staff at Oregon State. This year, at the beginning of the season, his staff and the coaches upgraded the helmet by adding chrome to the standard red L. Then, they added the Leopard head for the rivalry against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks – the longest football rivalry in college football.
The helmet brought little success (so far) for the Leopards on the field, but it has done quite well in Helmet Bowl.
“We will keep pushing and pushing.”
Now they face the total vote leader Dickinson Red Devils.
Red Devils Helmet
“The helmet came about when our coaches looked at what we had and wanted a modern portrayal and wanted to look good to play well,” Payne said. “We wanted to do something different.”
It started with Riddell. Head Football Coach Brad Fordyce recalls that Riddell's Matt Schilajew lead a design team in 2016 to come up with a primary and the alternative helmet voters are loving in Helmet Bowl.
“We use it for rivalry games and senior day,” Fordyce wrote us at Helmet Tracker.
The Red Devils improved their on-field success by one win this year, and hope to build on continued success and good looks in the year to come. Recruits want to look good and play well and the helmets bring home the message, Payne said.
Attention to Detail
“This helmet embodies what the program is all about – being sharp, attention to detail – attacking each day with a focused mentality,” Payne said.
We know a great helmet goes far in Helmet Bowl. But it isn’t everything. The votes must be gathered. How does Dickinson do it?
“Our parent club is doing an awesome job organizing the votes,”Payne tells us. “They are coming up with tactics and sharing with family and friends and voting.”
Payne and his cohorts have created two videos to support their campaign and post constantly on social media.
National Championship Doorstep
Now, both the Red Devils and Leopards are two wins away from the National Championship matchup. What would it mean to hoist the Helmet Bowl trophy?
“A national championship would continue the success of Red Devil football in a new way,” Payne says. “The fact that everyone has embraced Helmet Bowl and rallied around us shows the creation here of something new and a celebration of our history that is helping us reach the next level.”
Dickinson has been around for a bit. It was launched by signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush in 1893 – the first college established in the newly formed United States of America.
“A Helmet Bowl National Championship goes along with the growth and competitiveness of our program,” Payne said. “We’ve won 9 Conference Championships and the Red Devils are always competitive – they do what they do with purpose.”
Martin, at Lafayette, understands. The Leopards won a National Championship in 1896, 1921, and again in 1926. Nearly 100 years have the Leopards itching again for glory.
“It's not a panel that is judging the best helmet,” he said. “It would be a great thing to win it all.”