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story.lead_photo.caption Helias' Grant Boessen cheers as the Crusaders force a turnover in the first quarter of Friday's Class 4 District 6 championship game against Warrensburg at Ray Hentges Stadium. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

This didn't happen overnight, it was a three-year process.

"The first year, we laid a good foundation," Helias coach Chris Hentges said after Friday night's 49-14 win against Warrensburg in the Class 4 District 6 championship game at Ray Hentges Stadium. "The second year, we improved a little more.

"This year, we are 11-0 and we won a conference title and a district title and ranked No. 1 in the state. It's a credit to all the coaches and the players."

It's Helias' first district football championship since 2014. The Crusaders (11-0) will host West Plains (10-1) in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday. West Plains advanced with a 41-26 victory Friday night against Carl Junction to capture the District 5 crown.

Hentges began his second stint as Helias head coach when the current seniors were sophomores.

"They bought in, the belief in our past success because the formula works," Hentges said. "Our offensive and defensive philosophies work, they have proven to be successful."

The defense set the table Friday night for the Crusaders' offense, which had already set a single-season record for total yards and tied the mark for points scored.

The Crusaders intercepted four passes by Tiger quarterback Eli Nappe, who had thrown just two in the regular season. Helias turned all four into points.

"Our defensive backs were in the right spots," Hentges said. "Plus we put a little pressure on him, made him a little uncomfortable."

After stopping a Warrensburg fake punt a yard short on the first drive of the game, Helias needed eight running plays to find the end zone. Alex Clement took it over from 6 yards and the first of seven PATs by Vinnie Calvaruso made it 7-0.

Then came the run of Tigers turnovers.

Drew Higgins of the Crusaders returned an interception 45 yards to the Tiger 22. Three plays later, Ryan Klahr scored on a 9-yard run and it was 14-0.

Down by two scores, the Crusaders had taken the Tigers out of their running game early.

"Once we got them feeling they had to throw the ball to catch up, when you get a team in a situation where they have to pass the ball, you can really put on the pressure and dial up your coverages," Hentges said.

Klahr got an interception to halt Warrensburg's next drive and his return set up the Helias offense at the Tiger 21.

Three plays later, Helias quarterback Jake Weaver scored on a 3-yard run two plays into the second quarter to make it 21-0.

Warrensburg got on the board on its next drive when Shelby Pittsenbarger got loose down the left side for a 56-yard touchdown run to make it 21-7.

The Crusaders had run the ball on their first 15 plays before breaking out the pass game the rest of the opening half.

"We got some good one-on-one matchups," Hentges said.

A 31-yard pass from Weaver to Cole Stumpe got the Crusaders deep into Tiger territory on their next drive, capped by a 23-yard scoring toss from Weaver to Damon Johanns to make it 28-7.

Aleck Barchenski picked off Nappe on Warrensburg's next drive. A first down throw of 29 yards from Weaver to Johnanns got the Crusaders inside the Tiger 5. Three plays later, Clement scored from a yard out to make it 35-7.

Klahr stopped Warrensburg's next drive with a diving interception near midfield. Helias needed just two plays to get back to the end zone, the scoring coming on a shovel pass from Weaver to Clement that resulted in a 40-yard touchdown and a 42-7 advantage.

Warrensburg punted on its next possession and Helias scored on the next play when Weaver found a wide-open Stumpe for a 45-yard touchdown as Helias took a 49-7 lead into intermission.

Helias finished the half with 281 yards of offense and the 35-point second quarter was the highest total in any quarter for the Crusaders this season.

It's the fifth time Helias has scored 41 or more points in the first half in 2020.

"Man, I thought we played well tonight," Hentges said. "Across the board, everybody did a great job."

With the big lead and the running clock, the Helias reserves played the entire second half against the Warrensburg starters.

The Tigers got on the board again with 2:13 left in the game on a 15-yard run by Luke Othic.

"We made them earn that touchdown," Hentges said.

When the clock struck :00.0, the Crusaders celebrated as they achieved another one of their goals this season by winning the district title.

"The guys gave it their all and everybody just kept plugging along every day," Hentges said. "It's a culmination of all of our hard work."

The Crusaders are looking for this to be the first of many district titles to come in future seasons.

"You get to that championship standard and you continue that," Hentges said. "We impress on the young guys that this thing is just beginning. Our JV, our freshmen, we have that expectation of high-level football."

Friday's quarterfinal game will be the ninth home contest of the season for the Crusaders.

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