SMITHVILLE — It was do-or-die time for the Helias Crusaders.
They live for the final week of the high school football season.
"That was a great football game," Helias coach Chris Hentges said after the Crusaders scored with :32 remaining Friday night to take a 13-10 win against the Smithville Warriors in the Class 4 semifinals.
"These were two teams that played their hearts out and we were fortunate to come out with the victory."
With the win, the top-ranked Crusaders (13-0) advance to next Friday night's Class 4 state championship game at Adkins Stadium against the winner of today's semifinal between MICDS (6-0) and Union (7-4) in St. Louis. Game time is 7 p.m.
Helias trailed 10-6 when Isaac Lopez made a tackle on a fourth-and-2 play to give the Crusaders they ball back at their own 20-yard line with a little more than 2 minutes remaining.
An 11-yard run by Jake Weaver got the Crusaders out to the 31 with 1:40 remaining. After an incompletion, the Crusaders were faced with a second-and-10.
Up stepped Alex Clement.
The Crusaders senior running back slipped out of the backfield into the flat to catch a pass from Weaver down the left sideline. He broke a pair of tackles on what turned out to be a 54-yard reception to give Helias the ball at the Smithville 15.
Clement ran 5 yards on first down, then for 5 more to give the Crusaders the ball at the Warrior 5. He then finished what he started with another 5-yard run into the end zone to give the Crusaders their first lead of the game at 12-10. Vinnie Calvaruso booted the PAT to make it 13-10 with :32 left.
"Alex is just a hard-nosed runner," Hentges said. "He made the big plays when we absolutely needed them."
Smithville bobbled Calvaruso's ensuing kickoff and the Warriors were forced to start their drive at their own 6.
After an incompletion, Smithville picked up 3 yards on second down. On third-and-7, the Warriors threw another completion, but a lateral attempt went askew and Gage Wilde of the Crusaders recovered the loose ball.
One play in victory formation later, the Crusaders were celebrating their first trip to the state title game in football since 2013.
"It's been a long time," Hentges said. "We're happy to get there again, we're happy that it's in our hometown, we're just happy."
The two teams entered the game averaging a combined 77 points per game this season. But the defenses were in command for most of the night.
Helias drove 80 yards on the opening series of the game, but came away empty with a missed field goal attempt.
The Crusaders had just 57 yards of offense the rest of the half.
"We just were having trouble getting anything going," Hentges said. "But that's a credit to Smithville."
On the other side, Smithville's best chance to score came late in the second quarter. The Warriors started at the Crusaders 35 after an interception and were first-and-goal at the Helias 10.
Two runs netted 2 yards before Cole Stumpe of the Crusaders intercepted a pass in the end zone on third down to halt the threat.
Smithville finished with 138 yards in the first two quarters, one more than Helias.
Late in the third quarter, an interception gave Smithville the ball at the Helias 10.
The Warriors were facing fourth-and-goal inside the Crusader 1 when Hayden Sigg took it into the end zone for the game's first touchdown. The PAT was good and Smithville led 7-0 with 1:47 to go in the third quarter.
Helias answered on its next drive. On second-and-12, Weaver connected with Stumpe down the middle for a 63-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter.
"That was a great throw and a great catch," Hentges said.
The PAT missed and Smithville took a 7-6 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Warriors drove inside the Crusaders 10 on their next drive before Noah Schuetz booted a 27-yard field goal to extend Smithville's advantage to 10-6 with 8:55 to play.
After Helias went three-and-out and punted the ball back to Smithville, the Warriors were able to run nearly four minutes off the clock before Lopez got the big stop to get the back for the Crusaders and set up the dramatic victory.
Sigg led Smithville with 121 rushing yards on 27 carries. The Warriors finished with 151 yards on the ground and 92 through the air.
Clement led Helias with 96 yards on 22 carries. Helias had 160 yards rushing and 148 yards passing.
Smithville ends its season at 10-3.