Helias, Carthage soccer teams renew rivalry

There’s just a bit more at stake today.

The Helias Crusaders (19-5) and Carthage Tigers (22-5) met during the regular season, a 2-1 victory in favor of Helias on Oct. 26 in Springfield.

The 10th-ranked Crusaders and fourth-ranked Tigers meet again with a trip to the Class 2 Final Four on the line, as Helias hosts the state quarterfinal at 1 p.m. today at the 179 Soccer Park in Jefferson City.

“It’s always tougher to do that,” Helias head coach Chuck Register said about beating the same team twice. “Now it’s at our place and in front of our fans. There’s going to be excitement, but there’s also going to be a little bit of pressure. We just have to be ready (today) to play our best game of the season to see if we can get to the Final Four.”

About that first meeting.

Ian Luebbert and Gage West picked up goals in that regular-season finale victory for Helias.

“I remember it was a smaller field than what we play on,” Register said. “They kind of congested it a little bit. We scored on a couple free kicks, maybe a free kick and a corner I believe.”

Carthage’s tally in the game marks the last time Helias allowed a goal. The unblemished Crusaders have outscored their three playoff opponents by a 4-0 score leading into today’s game — a 2-0 district semifinal win against Bolivar, a 1-0 district championship win against No. 2 Rolla and a 1-0 victory against Union in the sectional Tuesday.

“Defense,” Register said, summing up the reason Helias has reached this point. “If the other team doesn’t score you’ve done your job. Just getting that one goal and then hang on as much as possible. Keep them out of the goal.

“We just have to keep that mindset.”

Carthage has allowed just one playoff goal up to this point, a tally that game in the Tigers’ 5-1 sectional victory against Willard on Tuesday. Carthage also owns an 8-0 victory against Webb City and a 5-0 win against Carl Junction in district play.

“They have a couple guys in the midfield that we’ll have to watch,” Register said.

“I think they’re skilled enough they can try to push the ball up the field. Since it was a smaller field than what we play on normally, I think they can do that. Now I believe we’re going to spread them out as much as we can and maybe look for some passing lanes. See if we can just move the ball up the field and get our chances.”

Helias and Carthage share two common opponents in Joplin and Springfield Catholic. Helias owns a pair of 2-0 victories against that pair, while Carthage has a 1-0 win against Joplin and a season-split with Springfield Catholic.

Still, that doesn’t give Helias any advantage in this setting.

“It’s going to be even,” Register said. “We’re going to see who finally gets control in the rhythm of the game. Then from there just kind of see if we have to play more defensively and counter, or if we can take control of the ball and see if we can get down on their end of the field and play offense as much as possible and see if we can shoot on them.”

Register knows it’s going to take a great performance for Helias to reach its sixth Final Four in program history.

“It’s going to take one of our best efforts defensively,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll come out with a good mindset and move the ball from the very beginning. If we have to settle in, I hope it’s that we’re settling in offensively instead of defensively so we’re not on our heels.

“We’re one game away from being there. We just have to wait and see what happens.”

With a win today, Helias would advance to the Final Four in Blue Springs. The Crusaders would take on the winner of the Raytown South (14-12) and Liberty North (23-4) contest at 2 p.m. Friday at Blue Springs South.

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