The Helias Crusaders are happy to be in the Class 4 District 5 football semifinals.
But they know they have to play better than they did last Friday against Rolla if they want to continue in the postseason.
"It was a win, but it wasn't a good enough effort and if we don't improve, our season is going to end earlier than any of us want it to," Helias coach Chris Hentges said as the second-seeded Crusaders prepare to face the third-seeded Lebanon Yellowjackets at 7 p.m. today at Ray Hentges Stadium.
Helias (9-1, ranked No. 8 in Class 4) overcame a slow start with a 24-point barrage in the final six-plus minutes of the first half on its way to a 34-21 victory against Rolla to open the postseason.
"It wasn't our best game, we made the plays we needed to make to come out with the win," Hentges said.
The Crusaders have responded with what Hentges called their "best week of practice" as they prepare to host the Yellowjackets, who won Class 5 district titles in each of the last two seasons before dropping to Class 4 this year.
"I don't see very many weaknesses in their football team," Hentges said.
Offensively, Lebanon is averaging just under 42 points per game this season out of its run-heavy flexbone attack. The Yellowjackets are totaling nearly 375 yards rushing per game, averaging 7.6 yards per carry.
"We have to slow down the run game, we know that," Hentges said.
Lebanon ran for 570 yards in last Friday's 56-18 win against Union to start district play. A little more than 430 of those yards came in the first half.
"It's one of the best flexbone offenses I have ever seen," Hentges said.Quameire Wright (5-foot-8, 220 pounds, sr.), a fullback, leads Lebanon with 1,073 yards rushing (6.1 avg.) and 17 touchdowns on the ground.
Isaac Ledbetter (5-11, 160), a junior slotback, is next with 960 yards (13.0 avg.) and five touchdowns. Kale Keagy (5-7, 140), a senior slotback, has totaled 741 yards (11.6 avg.) and seven scores.
"Everything happens so fast in the flexbone, so you have to make your reads very quickly," Hentges said.
Curt Mobley (6-1, 165), Lebanon's senior quarterback, has run for 347 yards (6.0 avg.) and nine touchdowns.
"He's good," Hentges said. "He's got the speed to go the distance when he keeps it."
Like many good running teams, Lebanon doesn't throw it a lot, but are successful when they do. Mobley has just 25 completions this season, but his receivers are averaging more than 15 yards per catch.
"They are going to lull you to sleep, then have somebody streak down the field and throw the ball deep," Hentges said.
The attack starts up front with a line that averages nearly 260 pounds per player.
"It's one of the best groups we've seen," Hentges said. "Everything happens so fast in the flexbone, so you have to make your reads very quickly."
The Crusaders will have to throw numbers at the line of scrimmage in an attempt to defend the potent running game of the Yellowjackets.
"They force you to with that offense, you have to have seven or eight guys in the box to have any chance of success," Hentges said.
The Crusaders are looking to get a little more from their ground game this week.
"We know the run game is going to have to carry us through a little more," Hentges said. "We weren't physical in the run blocking game against Rolla, we've got to do a better job at that."
Defensively, the Yellowjackets are allowing 14 points per game out of a 3-3 stack or 3-4 formation.
"Their linebackers are really big and physical," Hentges said. "It's a very good group."
Lebanon, the largest Class 4 school, does not have a starter going both ways.
"It's an experienced ball club in all places," Hentges said. "It's going to be a challenge."
Notes: Helias senior center Noah Morrow will be back in the starting lineup tonight after missing the Rolla game with an injury. The Helias-Lebanon winner will either play next Friday at top-seeded Camdenton (10-0) or host fourth-seeded Washington (9-1) for the district title. Lebanon's two losses came in consecutive weeks in the middle of the season — 36-35 to West Plains and 28-0 to Camdenton. Helias' 2020-21 football schedule took a hit earlier this week when Bolivar announced it was joining the Ozark Conference as a football-only member to replace Springfield Central. The Crusaders and Liberators were slated to play a home-and-home in Week 9 in the next two years, but Bolivar will have conference games in all nine weeks of the regular season. Helias also has an opening in Week 4 for the next two seasons. The current schedule has a non-conference game against Hannibal along with Central Missouri Activities Conference contests against Battle, Capital City, Hickman, Jefferson City, Rock Bridge and Sedalia Smith-Cotton.