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Helias falls to Webb City 28-14 in Class 4 title game

Helias’ Trent Dudenhoeffer tries to break free from Webb City’s Austin Carter while returning a fourth-quarter kickoff during Friday’s MSHSAA Show-Me Bowl Class 4 final at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Helias’ Trent Dudenhoeffer tries to break free from Webb City’s Austin Carter while returning a fourth-quarter kickoff during Friday’s MSHSAA Show-Me Bowl Class 4 final at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Editor's Note: This article expands upon previous coverage.

ST. LOUIS —The Helias Crusaders had it, they just couldn’t keep it.

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@tjrackers reports

News Tribune reporters @tjrackers and @tony_hawley posted tweets during Saturday's game.

“It” was momentum in Friday afternoon’s Class 4 state championship game against the Webb City Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome. Each time it looked like the Crusaders had momentum, the Cardinals came back to quickly snatch it away as they went on to post a 28-14 victory to claim their fourth straight state title and 12th overall.

“This program, we’re never happy with just second place,” Helias coach Phil Pitts said. “We’re not satisfied, we’re going to keep pushing, keep climbing the mountain.

“It wasn’t a lack of effort, we just didn’t get the job done.”

The Crusaders got the job done on the game’s first drive, going 70 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. The score came on a 1-yard plunge by Garrett Buschjost, who carried the ball six times for 53 yards on the drive.

Three plays later, Webb City quarterback Devin Pickett fumbled after getting hit by Jon Wildhaber and it was recovered by Hale Hentges at the Helias 47-yard line.

Momentum was surely on the side of the Crusaders, who picked up 12 yards and a first down to move into Cardinal territory.

But things quickly went south.

• One, on the third play of the drive, Helias senior guard Will Fife went down with a knee injury and spent the rest of the game on the bench and left the field on crutches.

“Losing a first-team all-state lineman with that kind of experience, that kind of strength and that kind of ability obviously didn’t help, but we believe in the guys we put out there,” Pitts said. “It would have been nice to have him for four quarters, but we didn’t.”

• Two, the Cardinals switched from a 4-2 defensive front they employed on the first drive to a 3-3.

“You always have to be prepared and we tell our kids to be ready to run whatever we’ve got at our disposal,” Webb City coach John Roderique said. “We couldn’t stay in what we were doing, so we had to make a change.”

The change in fronts slowed what had been a potent Helias run game.

“We had practiced against it, but it can cause problems for the inside run game,” Pitts said. “We were ready for it, but we didn’t react quickly enough to it.”

• Three, Helias made some uncharacteristic mistakes. On the play where Fife was injured, Helias was flagged for intentional grounding, pushing the Crusaders back into their own territory. A loss of 6 yards on second down made it third-and-28, then the Crusaders were again penalized for intentional grounding.

It was fourth-and-49 and Helias had to punt.

“It wasn’t a pretty series of downs,” Pitts said. “As the head coach and the offensive coordinator, I should have done a better job.”

The Cardinals took over at the Crusader 43. Seven plays later, Trey Parra scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The PAT kick failed and it was 7-6 in favor of Helias.

The next two Helias drives netted a total of four yards, but a 49-yard punt by J.C. Szumigala pinned Webb City back at its own 7 early in the second quarter.

Parra lost four yards on first down, but Webb City then went 97 yards on 10 straight running plays to take the lead. A 31-yard run by Parra on a fake punt keyed the drive, capped by a 16-yard reverse by Kiante Hardin for the score.

“You have to have everything ready,” said Roderique, noting the Cardinals had not run a fake punt all season.

Pickett hit Parra with a 2-point conversion pass and it was 14-7.

“That’s the triple-option offense,” Helias senior linebacker Michael Tannehill said. “They’re going to be content getting 3 or 4 yards until you make a mistake.”

A punt and an interception ended Helias’ final two drives of the half as Webb City took that seven-point lead into halftime.

“They took the line of scrimmage away from us,” Pitts said.

Having the lead at intermission was big for the Cardinals.

“That was big for the momentum and being excited,” Roderique said, “Just having a little bit of momentum was an edge.”

While keeping the Cardinals out of the end zone, the Crusaders netted just 10 yards on their first two series of the second half. But they put things together on the third drive that started late in the third quarter.

A 17-yard pass from Wyatt Porter to Ryan Tannehill got the Crusaders to midfield and then Buschjost went to work. The senior carried the ball nine straight plays, the final from 1 yard out for his second touchdown.

“I knew I could handle it, the opportunity arose and I accepted it,” Buschjost said. “We were able to get a better push up front and after that score, I thought we were set.”

Szumigala’s second PAT of the game knotted the game at 14 with nine minutes left.

“We knew we were facing a great opponent in Helias,” Roderique said. “If you look at their body of work, they’ve beaten a lot of good teams and we knew we would have to battle every second of the game.”

Momentum wasn’t on Helias’ side for long. Hardin caught the ensuing kickoff at the Cardinal 15 and returned it 66 yards to the Crusader 19.

“They had the momentum and then we get that, it helps us get the lead back,” Roderique said.

Four plays later, Parry scored from 5 yards out and the PAT made it 21-14.

The Crusaders, aided by a facemask penalty, drove to the Cardinal 47 on the next series. But on fourth-and-1, Buschjost came up just short and the Cardinals got the ball back with 4:30 remaining in the game.

“It was a big change in in momentum,” Cardinals linebacker Hunter Rhea said. “Fortunately we had some linemen and linebackers there giving their all to get that stop to hand it over to the offense.”

The Cardinals iced the game three plays later when Parra went 45 yards for the score.

“If we were able to get one more stop, we would have had that momentum,” Pitts said. “Our defense had been playing so well, but they put one in and we weren’t able to answer.”

Parra finished with 150 yards rushing to lead a 328-yard Webb City ground attack. The Cardinals did not complete a pass in the game.

Buschjost had 131 yards on 32 carries in his final game for the Crusaders.

“We got to where we wanted to be, we just came up a little short,” he said.

Porter was 10-of-25 passing for 142 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked three times. Ryan Tannehill had a team-high six catches for 105 yards for the Crusaders, who end the season at 12-3.

It is the fourth straight year Webb City has ended Helias’ season. The Cardinals are 6-0 all-time against the Crusaders, all in the postseason.

“They’ve got our number,” Pitts said. “I’m tired of losing to them, that’s for sure.”

Notes: Webb City’s 12 state titles are the most in Missouri history. Valle Catholic can tie that record today with a win against Marceline in the Class 1 title game. Webb City has won four straight state crowns. … The seriousness of Fife’s injury is unknown, Pitts said. Fife will have an MRI to get an idea of the extent of the injury. … The 28 points were the most allowed by Helias this season. The previous high came in a 27-17 loss Sept. 20 to Hickman that was the Crusaders’ last defeat until Friday. … Michael Tannehill had a game-high 11 tackles.

Companion article:

Special teams prove special for Webb City

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