The Helias Crusaders didn't want to get caught watching.
The Jefferson City Jays offense employs misdirection in the backfield to try to confuse opposing defenses where the ball is going in their running game. To combat that, Helias had two defensive keys going into Friday night's game at Adkins Stadium.
"We wanted to make sure we put our eyes in the right spot," Helias defensive coordinator Phil Pitts said. "We couldn't let all their misdirection in the backfield distract us. We did that.
"And we wanted to make sure we set the edges. We didn't want to allow them to bounce it outside for big yards. And we did that."
Helias limited Jefferson City to 108 yards on 35 carries on its way to a 28-0 victory in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
"Our defense was the story line of the night," Helias coach Chris Hentges said. "I can't say enough good things about our defense and the job that they did."
Helias forced Jefferson City to three-and-outs on four of its first five possessions in the game. The other ended with an interception by linebacker Isaac Lopez.
"The whole team got good reads, we played awesome," Lopez said.
The defense needed to come up big in the first half. While the Crusaders did score a pair of touchdowns in the opening two quarters, they also turned it over four times.
"They threw some defensive wrinkles we hadn't seen in any of their games this season," Hentges said. "Hats off to their defensive staff, they frustrated us. They had a very good defensive game plan."
Helias scored on its second possession of the game. A 37-yard pass from Jake Weaver to Cole Stumpe, followed by the first of four extra points by Vinnie Calvaruso, gave the Crusaders a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Lopez's interception set up Helias' second touchdown. Starting at the Jays 33, the Crusaders needed just four running plays to find the end zone. The score came on a 3-yard run by Weaver and it was 14-0.
The Crusaders felt like they left some points on the field as they went into the locker room at intermission. Helias finished with 245 yards and 14 first downs on 30 plays in the opening two quarters.
"We were frustrated," Hentges said.
But the defense, which held the Jays to 53 total yards and two first downs in the opening two quarters, felt it was its time to carry the load.
"We're a football team that has an unbelievable offense that has at times this year saved the defensive side," Pitts said. "We were ready to do the same."
The Jays got the ball to start the third quarter and put together their best offensive drive of the night. Starting at their own 25, Jefferson City drove deep into Helias territory and had first-and-10 at the Crusader 14.
After a 2-yard run on first down, Jefferson City threw an incomplete pass on second down. A third-down run netted no yards before a field-goal attempt went wide and the score remained 14-0.
Helias stressed its defense in the red zone in practice during the week.
"We wanted to make sure when were in those situations down there, we were locked in," Pitts said. "And we were locked in tonight."
The Crusaders lost its third fumble of the night on the next series as the Jays took over at the Helias 34. But three plays, along with a penalty, pushed the Jays back nine yards and they were forced to punt.
"Our kids just kept playing," Pitts said.
Helias then went on a 13-play, 83-yard drive for an insurance score. The touchdown came on a 9-yard run by Alex Clement and it was 21-0 early in the fourth quarter.
"The way our defense was playing, we felt a little more comfortable after getting that score," Hentges said.
Later in the quarter, the Helias defense forced its sixth three-and-out in the game and the Crusaders took over at the Jays 26 after a 6-yard punt.
On first down, Clement broke through the Jefferson City defense for his second touchdown of the quarter to make it 28-0.
"Alex is tough, he's got great balance," Hentges said. "He has the ability to find the seam, stick his foot in the ground and get north and south."
Clement finished with 154 yards on 18 carries.
"It's frustrating when you turn it over five times, but I think that shows how good we are because we were able to come back from that," Clement said.
The only question left after Clement's second touchdown was if the Helias No. 2 defense was going to finish the shutout. The Jays were able to pick up 41 yards on nine plays before time ran out, but only got to the Crusader 31.
"In the grand scheme of things, getting the shutout wasn't very important," Pitts said. "But in the small battle, it was gigantic. We wanted it on the sideline, we wanted the zero and I'm happy the kids were able to accomplish that."
Stumpe joined Lopez by getting an interception for the Helias defense in the second half.
It was a big game in the Lopez household as Issac's father, Joe, was a standout player at Jefferson City.
"He wasn't really torn, he was all behind me, he wanted me to do great," Lopez said. "He loves the rivalry."
There was another father-son moment on the field in the team huddle after the game as Chris Hentges presented the game ball to his father, legendary Helias coach Ray Hentges.
"He coached 33 seasons and that represents more than half of the teams and the players that never got the opportunity to play in this game," Chris Hentges said. "This is a historic event we as a group got to be a part of and we embraced the challenge of representing the history of Helias football.
"We did this for all the guys who never got this opportunity and we showed that by honoring my dad."
Jefferson City (3-4 overall, 3-2 CMAC) will host Battle on Friday.
Helias (7-0, 5-0) will wrap up CMAC play Friday against Sedalia Smith-Cotton (0-6, 0-4) at Ray Hentges Stadium. Game time is 7 p.m.
Smith-Cotton dropped a 49-9 decision Saturday to Battle in CMAC action.