Defense shines as Helias rallies past C.B.C.

Hale Hentges of Helias looks down at the back corner of the end zone during his touchdown catch after outjumping Damion Baker of C.B.C. for the ball midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game at Adkins Stadium in Jefferson City.

Hale Hentges of Helias looks down at the back corner of the end zone during his touchdown catch after outjumping Damion Baker of C.B.C. for the ball midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game at Adkins Stadium in Jefferson City. Photo by Kris Wilson.

The Helias Crusaders entered Saturday afternoon’s game averaging nearly 48 points per contest.

That average will go down. The win total, however, went up.

The Helias defense stymied C.B.C. for all but one series Saturday as the Crusaders used a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to upend the Cadets 13-9 at Adkins Stadium.

“The defense attacked all day,” Helias coach Pitts said. “They did a great job of getting off blocks to get to who had the football. They got momentum for us.

“Our leaders kept coming and were consistent all game, we didn’t give up any big plays. It was a great team effort.”

It is the second win against a Class 6-ranked team this season for the Crusaders. Two weeks ago, Helias got a running clock in beating Rock Bridge 59-21. That win against an area rival was sweet. Saturday’s hard-fought victory against the fourth-ranked Cadets was satisfying.

“Things went our way almost the entire game against Rock Bridge, but they didn’t in this one,” Pitts said. “But we didn’t let it get to us and we were able to pull one out in the fourth quarter.”

After Helias took a four-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Crusader defense came up with a series of big plays.

On C.B.C.’s ensuing drive, Hale Hentges tipped a fourth-down pass at the line of scrimmage to give the ball back to the Crusaders. C.B.C.’s next drive ended when pressure from Jon Wildhaber and Merlin Phelps forced Cadet quarterback Zach Even into a poor throw in another fourth-down situation.

“Early in the year, we weren’t winning fourth downs,” Pitts said. “We didn’t do it against Harrisonville, we didn’t do it against Hickman. But we’ve learned from it and our kids went out there and executed.”

The Crusaders iced the game when Trent Dudenhoeffer pulled in an interception with less than a minute remaining.

“Our offense has been great all year, we’ve been talking about how this might be one of the best offenses we’ve ever had,” Pitts said. “And to go out there and win a game when that doesn’t happen, our kids should have no doubts in themselves.”

Trailing 9-0, Helias got on the board early in the fourth quarter.

On the first play of the final period, Jared Rackers intercepted a Even pass and Helias had the ball at the C.B.C. 45. Four plays later, Wyatt Porter hit Garrett Buschjost with a swing pass and after big blocks from Hentges and Christian Hake, the senior found himself 29 yards later in the end zone. J.C. Szumigala booted the PAT and it was 9-7 with 10:41 on the clock.

“We were just trying to get a first down, but Garrett and the guys blocking made a great play,” Pitts said.

After a C.B.C. punt, Helias took over at its own 38. On second down, Porter hit Dudenhoeffer in stride down the right sideline for a 40-yard gain. The Crusaders got the ball to the Cadet 9, when on third down, Porter lobbed a pass to Hentges in the corner of the end zone.

The junior leaped, caught it and got one foot in the end zone for the score.

“When thrown properly, there’s not a lot a defense can do about that play and Wyatt threw it properly,” Pitts said. “(C.B.C.) knew what we were going to do. It was their best guy and our best guy and our best guy won.”

The Crusaders’ try for a 2-point conversion failed and it was 13-9 with 5:41 left.

“We never folded, we never quit,” Pitts said.

The two touchdowns accounted for nearly half of the Helias passing offense Saturday.

“We couldn’t get anything going,” Pitts said. “The have great defensive linemen and they got a lot of pressure on us.”

After a scoreless first half, the Cadets got on the board on the first drive of the third quarter. C.B.C. went 82 yards in eight plays for the score, which came on a 22-yard run by Calen Taylor. Andrew Erlich converted the PAT to make it 7-0.

It took all of eight seconds for the Cadets to score again. Helias got the ensuing kickoff at its own 18 and on the first play, the snap sailed over Porter’s head into the end zone. Porter fell on the ball and was tackled for a safety to make it 9-0.

“Our offense didn’t help our defense very much,” Pitts said. “But the defense kept coming and that’s what good football teams do.”

Pitts believes the Crusaders then made one of the biggest plays of the game. After the safety, Helias had to kick the ball back to C.B.C. and Szumigala punted it deep into Cadet territory as the visitors were forced to start from their own 31.

“He turned that one over and bombed it,” he said. “On a punt after a safety, you’re hoping they don’t get it at midfield or worse, but J.C. pinned them back and there was great coverage.”

The Helias defense then took away any possible C.B.C. momentum by forcing a three-and-out.

The Cadets (6-2) were playing without starting quarterback Tyler Creath, who was on the sideline with crutches after being injured in the second half of last week’s game against DeSmet.

“(Creath’s) a great player, but (Even) did a good job,” Pitts said. “Injuries happen, they’re a part of football and the next guy has to step up and play.”

Helias (6-2, ranked No. 3 in Class 4) can wrap up the District 6 title with a win Friday at Hannibal (6-2).

“Last year, we did some things early that made the district situation out of our hands,” Pitts said. “This year, we’ve made it so we control our destiny in districts. But the job is not done, Hannibal is going to be a tough opponent, our rival and a place where we haven’t played well.”

Game time will be 7 p.m.

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