The Helias Crusaders feel like they're ahead of the game.
With a team camp road trip in late July and a Jamboree less than two weeks ago, the Crusaders are ready for tonight's soccer season opener against Kirksville at the 179 Soccer Park.
"We've gotten a lot of things done in the past few weeks," Helias coach Chuck Register said.
The varsity and junior varsity squads went to Memphis for five days.
"It brought us together," Register said. "It was nice to be able to focus on soccer. I think everybody enjoyed it and it was a springboard for us into the preseason."
The Crusaders then got a break from the practice routine by squaring off with Jefferson City, Battle and Sedalia Smith-Cotton in a Jamboree.
"It was a chance to get on the field, test the kids against somebody different," Register said.
Each team played a 25-minute game against the other three at the Jamboree and Register said he learned a lot about his squad.
"We had guys playing different positions and that was good to do before playing an actual game," he said.
And Helias had a week of practice after the Jamboree.
"We have a chance to take the things we've learned to the practice field," Register said.
The Crusaders return four starters from a team that finished second in the Class 2 District 10 Tournament.
"It's a young team but we've got some experience," Register said. "It's a good mix of players."
Register said one of the team's strengths is it is a cohesive group.
"We've got some good leadership with the seniors, the team is willing to put in the work and want to win," Register said.
Kyle Daledovich returns in goal for his senior season.
Starting on defense will be seniors Carson Mueller, Clay Carroll and Cody Hamacher, along with either senior Austin Sachse or junior Ethan Lesko.
"We're going to have to play good defense and with a new backfield, they're going to need a little bit of time to become cohesive and work as a group," Register said. "We need more communication to get into the proper positions."
Among the reserves in the back are juniors Blake Steinmetz and Ethan Twehus, along with freshman Sam Heckert. Twehus will also be the reserve keeper.
Gage West and Braden Toebben, both seniors, will start at center midfielders.
"I like what they bring to the table, the ability they have to dish the ball off and get us set up," Register said.
Dane Haugen, a junior, and sophomore Braden Remmert will start on the wings.
Reserves in the midfield include seniors Jeremy Wolters, and Tim Struemph and juniors Nathan Mercurio, Wyatt Loethen and Nick Hafner.
Dominic Salamone, a senior, and junior Ian Luebbert will start at forward. Zach Simon, a junior, and Mercurio and Sachse are the backups.
"We have lots of options," Register said. "We're looking to be creative up front. We've got a good group of scorers."
New to the schedule this season is a game against Washington and a two-day trip to Springfield to take on Springfield Catholic and Carthage.
"It's a schedule that we think will prepare us for the postseason," Register said.
Today's JV game will start at 4 p.m., with the varsity contest to follow around 5:45 p.m.