Press Box: Area high school football programs continue to impress

Helias coach Chris Hentges holds the first-place trophy as he addresses his team following Friday night's Class 5 District 5 Tournament championship game against Capital City at Ray Hentges Stadium. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)
Helias coach Chris Hentges holds the first-place trophy as he addresses his team following Friday night's Class 5 District 5 Tournament championship game against Capital City at Ray Hentges Stadium. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

It has been a great season to be a high school football fan in Mid-Missouri.

This past Friday marked district championship week across the state, and the middle of the Show-Me State showed out with five district champions.

I’ll start within the city, as Helias, Jefferson City and Capital City all cleared hurdles that have been circled for awhile.

The Crusaders are in their third season in Class 5, a move they were forced to make due to MSHSAA’s championship factor after winning the 2020 Class 4 state title.

Helias entered Friday still in search of its first district title since the class jump, but the Crusaders quickly made a statement against crosstown Capital City by jumping out to a 28-0 lead and running away with a 41-6 victory.

Helias, the third-ranked team in Class 5, now enters the state bracket with a road contest against seventh-ranked Republic.

The road to the school’s fourth football state title won’t be easy with a tough road game this week against the Tigers and with top-ranked Cardinal Ritter and No. 2 Grain Valley still in the way, but the Crusaders are definitely a team that can’t be counted out.

It was a disappointing ending to the season for the Cavaliers, but the progress they made this year shouldn’t be ignored.

Capital City entered the season with its biggest expectations in the short four-year history of the program and were able to outpace those predictions. The Cavaliers won a program-best eight games and picked up their first two postseason victories in program history.

With a young roster led by sophomores Jaylen Thomas and Evan Schaffer, expect another leap from Capital City next year.

In Class 4, Jefferson City was able to win its first district title in 14 years, something that is hard to fathom for a program with the rich history the Jays have.

Jefferson City’s senior class was playing in its third consecutive district championship and had experienced difficult losses in the first two to the Hannibal Pirates.

Facing a different opponent this time, the Pleasant Hill Roosters, the Jays stormed out to a fast start and were able to use a late field goal and defensive stop to secure a 37-34 victory.

With a road matchup against an unranked McDonald County team in its first state quarterfinal appearance in program history, Jefferson City has to feel pretty good about its chances to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2008.

Just outside city limits in Wardsville, the Blair Oaks Falcons have continued their dominance following the end of the Hair era of the program last season.

The Falcons have hardly broken a sweat since their Week 2 loss to Lutheran North, winning their last nine games by an average of 44.3 points, including Friday’s 59-7 drubbing of Moberly to win the 19th district championship in the past 23 seasons.

The dominance has continued into the postseason with victories by 34 and 52 points, respectively, and the team has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Blair Oaks is sure to get tested at some point, but the Falcons have made the jump from Class 2 to Class 3 look easy and have to be the favorite to win another state championship.

Columbia also had a pair of schools break through with big district championship wins.

Rock Bridge ended a 10-year drought of not extending its season into the state bracket, and did it in dominant fashion. The Bruins ran away with a 38-7 victory against Troy-Buchanan to win the Class 6 District 4 title to join fellow Central Missouri Activities Conference members Helias and Jefferson City in the state brackets.

Next week will be a tall task against De Smet, tied for third in the Class 6 rankings, but Rock Bridge is never an easy team to beat.

To round out the great weekend of football in Mid-Missouri, Father Tolton continued its perfect season with a 40-7 victory against Warsaw to win the program’s first-ever district title.

The Trailblazers had just four winning seasons in the first 11 years of the program, and no matter how this season ends, it seems like Father Tolton football is on the rise.

Quality football in the area is alive and well. And might not be done for a few more weeks.