The Helias Crusaders found inspiration from a teammate lost for the season a little more than 24 hours before last week's dominating win at Quincy (Ill.) Notre Dame.
The Crusaders will be looking for that same intensity Friday night when Helias (2-1, ranked No. 3 in Class 4) hosts Hickman (1-2) at Adkins Stadium.
"We learned how successful we can be when we're in that state of mind," Helias coach Phil Pitts said. "There are only so many games in a season, you can get up once a week and the kids saw how much fun and enjoyable it can be to play when you're like that and we can do that again.
"We executed well, we were physical, lot of enthusiasm and energy, everything you would want."
Helias senior captain Brock Gerstner suffered a broken leg on the final play of practice the day before the game.
"They realized one of their buddies was out and they were inspired because that was one thing they could do to make Brock feel better," Pitts said.
The Crusaders also may find some inspiration from last year's meeting with the Kewpies in Columbia. Trailing 14-0 early in the fourth quarter, the Crusaders rallied and were poised to tie the game in the final seconds. But after an apparent touchdown run was ruled short of the goal line, the Kewpies had 12 players on the field on their final defensive play, an interception in the end zone.
But instead of dwelling on that late sequence, the Crusaders took away a positive that played a big role in their run to the Class 4 title game.
"We played a really good fourth quarter and had an opportunity to win the game," Pitts said. "That game is probably the biggest reason we won the Hannibal game (a 14-10 win for the district title) because we learned we could come back in a fourth quarter, we could score on a final drive to win."
The Kewpies, who have sandwiched losses to Lee's Summit North (27-16) and Fort Zumwalt East (18-12) around their lone win against Holt (30-15), will bring a big-play offense into the 7 p.m. contest.
"They've got scary talent, some guys that are really, really good," Pitts said.
Hickman quarterback Mason Murray has completed just 18-of-42 passes this season, but the Kewpies are averaging almost 22 yards per reception.
"They've got a big-play offense and we have to be ready for it," Pitts said. "They want to hit the home run with the pass game," Pitts said.
Two of Murray's top targets are Roderick Beasley (8 catches for 191 yards and 3 TDs) and Missouri recruit Grant Jones (3-123).
"They are very capable of winning the one-on-one ball, so we have to be ready for those situations," Pitts said.
Cameron Wright is Hickman's top rusher with 198 yards (5.0 avg.). Justise Keith has three of Hickman's four rushing touchdowns.
Defensively, the Kewpies operate out of a 4-2-5 formation that likes to blitz.
"They really want to get after the quarterback," Pitts said.
The Crusaders will be without starting left guard Will Fife for the second time in three weeks with a shoulder injury.
Colton Ferguson will step into the offensive starting lineup in place of Fife, as he did in the contest against Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
Notes: Gerstner underwent surgery earlier this week and is expected to be at the game Friday. Gerstner will be replaced as captain by senior J.C. Szumigala, Pitts said. ... On the defensive line, Brody Buschjost will start in place of Fife. ... John Rhea graded out as Helias' most productive defensive player against Notre Dame, in part due to his interception return for a touchdown. He was followed closely by junior safety Todd Buschjost, senior cornerback Nick Haslag and senior linebacker Michael Tannehill. ... Tannehill leads the team in tackles through three games with 35 total stops (20 solo). Shane Colonius, a senior linebacker, is next with 26, while Todd Buschjost is third with 22. ... Pitts said Hickman will remain on Helias' schedule next season. ... The Crusaders will be back in action Saturday, Sept. 28, against Vashon in St. Louis. The 1:30 p.m. game will be played at Gateway Tech.