Contrasting styles meet as Helias battles St. Charles West (with PODCAST)

Helias linebacker Michael Tannehill wraps up a Hannibal player during Monday’s game at Adkins Stadium.

Helias linebacker Michael Tannehill wraps up a Hannibal player during Monday’s game at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Kris Wilson.

It’s old vs. new. Very old vs. new.

St. Charles West will use the wishbone offense this afternoon as the Warriors (10-2) host the spread attack of the Helias Crusaders (10-2) in a Class 4 quarterfinal contest.

Audio

Helias Week 13 Podcast (Soundcloud)

Each week News Tribune sports editor and Helias football beat writer Tom Rackers and host Adam Stillman will break down everything to do with Crusader football. This week they break down Helias' district final win against Hannibal and look ahead to Saturday's state quarterfinal against St. Charles West.

The Crusaders haven’t faced a wishbone attack in a long, long time.

“It’s been a challenge for us to prepare for this week in practice, but a challenge we’ve embraced,” Helias coach Phil Pitts said. “I’m excited to see what our run defense can do against their very good running game. Our scout team offense has done a great job of preparing our defense for it.”

Defending against the wishbone is just like facing any other offense, Pitts said. It comes down to TDT.

“Take on a block, defeat a block, tackle the ball-carrier,” he said. “If you do that on defense, you will be successful, no matter what offense you’re going against.”

Not too many teams have been successful against the Warrior offense this season. St. Charles West enters the 1:30 p.m. contest averaging just less than 42 points per game and has been held below 40 points in just four of its 12 games.

Drew Lauer (5-10, 170 jr.) leads the Warriors with 1,875 yards (13.4 avg.) and 27 touchdowns on the ground.

“He’s shifty and he’s a tough runner with strong legs,” Pitts said. “He’s going to be a challenge for our team. We know he’s going to get some yards, but we’re going to have to be ready to keep coming after him play after play.

“He’s as good a running back as we’ve seen all year.”

Lauer is second on the team in receptions with 20, good for 469 yards and four scores.

“They want to get him the football as much as they can,” Pitts said. “We have to be aware of him all the time.”

Senior quarterback Kyle Anders (6-1, 190) is 54-of-97 through the air for 1,006 yards. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

“He’s a big left-handed kid that can deliver the football,” Pitts said. “We can’t get caught up in defending the run game and then get caught if he throws it.”

Ryan Finders (6-1, 190 sr.) tops the team with 24 catches (13.0 avg.) and eight touchdowns.

The Helias defense is giving up an average of 108 yards on the ground and 13 points per game.

“Against the schedule that we play, those are some outstanding numbers,” Pitts said.

Helias has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in its last eight games. The last runner to eclipse the century mark against the Crusaders was Justise Keith of Hickman, who had 120 in a game on Sept. 20. That also was the last time the Crusaders lost, falling 27-17 to the Kewpies.

Defensively, the Warriors operate out of a 4-4 front and allow 20 points per game to their opponents.

Junior linebacker Blake Rugraff (6-2, 205) leads the team with 176 total tackles, including 119 solo stops.

St. Charles West has 24 interceptions and 35 quarterback sacks on the year.

“They are opportunistic, not only do they take the football away, but they are tough to score on when you get close to the end zone,” Pitts said. “That’s one thing that I noticed watching tape, they come up with stops and get turnovers when you have hit deep in their territory.”

The Crusaders are plus-25 in the turnover category.

“We’re getting extra possessions with turnovers and we’ve done a great job of protecting the football.” Pitts said.

The forecast calls for a good chance of rain this afternoon, but Pitts said the weather will not alter Helias’ game plan in regard to throwing the football.

“We’re not concerned about it because we believe we can handle it,” he said.

Notes: Pitts said the Crusaders, ranked No. 3 in Class 4, will be at full strength this afternoon. … Helias leads the all-time series against St. Charles West 4-0, including a playoff victory in the Crusaders’ last state championship season of 1998. … St. Charles West went 4-0 in winning the Gateway North Conference title this season. The Warriors were the lone conference team to finish with a winning overall record. … St. Charles West was the top seed in District 5 and advanced with wins against Normandy (42-15), Gateway (42-15) and University City (62-28). … Helias and St. Charles West have one common opponent — both defeating MICDS. The Crusaders beat the Rams 51-13 on Oct. 12, while the Warriors were 27-16 winners Oct. 25. … With a win today, Helias would host either Bolivar (12-0, ranked No. 2) or Liberty North (8-4) in the semifinals Saturday, Nov. 23.

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