The Helias Crusaders improved by five wins from the 2018 season.
But the 2019 season ended in the same place as last year — the district semifinals.
"Going from 4-7 to 9-2, that's obviously a positive step," Helias coach Chris Hentges said after Friday night's 43-13 loss to the Lebanon Yellowjackets in the Class 4 District 5 semifinals at Ray Hentges Stadium. "But we still have a ways to go before we can win a district title and get into the meaningful state playoffs.
"We have work to do."
Friday night's game showed at least one area in which the Crusaders need to improve as the Yellowjackets dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Lebanon jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead, running 41 plays on offense to just 16 for Helias. The Yellowjackets ran 38 times for 222 yards in the first two quarters, including a 104-yard and three touchdown performance from Quameire Wright on 19 carries.
"They handled us, they physically handled us tonight," Hentges said. "This is going to sting for a while."
The Yellowjackets scored on four of their five possessions in the first half. Wright scored on runs of 3 and 5 yards in the first quarter and from 4 yards out in the second quarter. Kale Keagy had a 15-yard touchdown run for Lebanon's other score. The scoring drives measured 80, 14, 73 and 58 yards.
Helias did not have a first down in the first quarter, totaling just four total yards in seven offensive plays. Things didn't get any better in the second quarter. Accounting for sacks and yards lost on fumbles, Helias had a minus-47 yards rushing on nine carries in the first half, while completing 3-of-7 passes for 38 yards.
"We knew we needed to be on offensively, hit a few big plays," Hentges said. "But we weren't at the start."
The Crusaders started the third quarter with their best drive of the night. Helias went 72 yards in 14 plays — eight runs and six passes — to reach the end zone. The score came on a 14-yard pass from Zach Wolken to Damon Johanns to cut Lebanon's lead to 28-6.
"We just needed to do a lot more of what we did on that drive," Hentges said.
The Yellowjackets scored twice in a four-minute span in the fourth quarter — a 5-yard run by Drew McBride and an 8-yard run by Antonio Rogers — to make it 43-6.
The Helias offense closed the season with a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive. Brody Mays scored on a 1-yard run and Vito Calvaruso converted the PAT to make the final 43-13 with :16.7 remaining.
"We had the toughest district in Class 4, I truly believe that," Hentges said. "We knew we'd have to play our absolute best and we just weren't able to do that tonight."
Helias got wins against four teams that beat them in 2018 — Vianney, Borgia, Monroe City and Rock Bridge.
"I'm very proud of everyone — the players and the coaches — for what we achieved this season," Hentges said.
The Crusaders played a lot of underclassmen this season and that experience should be valuable next year.
"I love the talent we have in the younger grades, they're hard working kids," Hentges said. "We're going to start to work for next year and take that next step which is a district title."
Lebanon (9-2) will face Camdenton (11-0) for the district title at 7 p.m. Friday.