Helias can wrap up top seed with win against Hannibal (with PODCAST)

The Helias Crusaders have done what they needed to do.

They just need to finish the job.

Helias (6-2, ranked No. 4 in Class 4) can wrap up the District 6 title Friday night with a win against the Hannibal Pirates (6-2) in Hannibal. There are tangible benefits that go along with that championship, such as not having to leave the friendly confines of Adkins Stadium for potentially half the playoffs.


Helias Week 9 Podcast (Soundcloud)

Each week, likely due out Thursday mornings, 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' Week 8 win against CBC and look ahead to Week 9's game against Hannibal.

“We want the three games at home,” Helias coach Phil Pitts said. “We’ve done what we needed to do to get here, now we need to finish it.”

Helias vaulted past undefeated Moberly to take the lead in the District 6 standings with last Saturday’s 13-9 victory against C.B.C. It was the second win against a Class 6 school this season for the Crusaders and those bonus points for beating a bigger school could pay off in the playoffs.

But it could all be for naught without a win Friday. And while Pirates have struggled at times this season, Pitts is still wary of Hannibal.

“It’s a game that always has district ramifications, they’re old conference rivals,” Pitts said. “It’s a tough place to get a win because we know how hard they can be to beat up there.”

Hannibal, which defeated Marshall 42-6 last week, has scored 33 or more points in six games this season. The Pirates are led on offense by senior running back Mitch Nichols (5-10, 190), who has rushed for 1,159 yards (5.9 avg.) and 16 touchdowns this season.

“Mitch Nichols is going to get 30 carries, you can be sure of that,” Pitts said.

Nichols is averaging 32 carries in Hannibal’s last four games, including a 39-carry, 320-yard performance in a 61-32 victory against Fulton.

“He’s a workhorse,” Pitts said. “We realize he’s going to get some, we just need to keep fighting and be ready for the next play.”

Wyatt King (5-10, 175, jr.) has been productive as a runner for the Pirates as well, totaling 461 yards (6.9 avg.) and five scores.

“Our defense has to do a good job of getting them into passing situations,” Pitts said. “We’ve got to do good jobs on first and second downs to get them into third-and-long where they have to throw it.”

Hannibal quarterback Austin Kirby (5-9, 155, jr.) is 38-of-70 passing for 623 yards and seven touchdowns.

Defensively, the Pirates will operate out of their normal 4-2-5 formation.

“That defense has given us some trouble over the past few years,” Pitts said. “They have big strong guys who get to the football. They want to make you beat them on the edge.”

The Helias defense was the key to Saturday’s win against C.B.C.

“Our front line, the front seven, played as good as we could have asked them to play,” Pitts said.

The Helias offense scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull out the victory.

“We won a game in the fourth quarter and that’s big,” Pitts said. “It was fun to win a game that way.”

That big win hasn’t been a distraction for the Crusaders.

“A lot of other weeks, we might worry about that, but we have a lot of things to play for,” Pitts said.

Notes: The playing status of starting offensive lineman Trystan Bax will be a game-time decision because of an injury, Pitts said. Adam Rustemeyer and Dane Clutter would fill in for Bax if he is unable to play. Todd Buschjost will be back in the starting lineup after missing the C.B.C. game with a leg injury. ... With a loss Friday, the Crusaders would fall to either second or third in the district standings. ... If they playoffs started today, Helias would host Marshall to start district play. Pitts said the Crusaders plan to open the playoffs Thursday, Oct. 31. ... Helias defeated Hannibal twice last season, winning 31-18 in the regular-season finale at Adkins Stadium before scoring a last-minute touchdown in a 14-10 decision in the district title game in Hannibal.

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