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story.lead_photo.caption Helias' Ethan Holzhauser runs for a touchdown early in the game against Sedalia Smith-Cotton Friday night at Ray Hentges Stadium. Photo by Ken Barnes / News Tribune.

The Helias Crusaders can check it off the list.

They're the first Central Missouri Activities Conference football champion.

"This was one of our goals," Helias coach Chris Hentges said Friday night after the Crusaders wrapped up an undefeated run through the CMAC with a 45-3 victory against Sedalia Smith-Cotton at Ray Hentges Stadium. "We have bigger goals ahead of us, but this was one the kids wanted to achieve in the first year of the conference and I'm proud we did it."

The Crusaders, the only Class 4 team in the conference, outscored their opponents 285-70 in their six CMAC victories.

"It's a tough conference, we're the smallest school in it and it's a challenge playing schools twice our size," Hentges said. "It's a testament to our players and coaches, we've been locked in from June 1 for this season."

On Friday night, Helias was locked in from the opening kickoff. The Crusaders scored on all six of their first-half possessions on their way to a 42-0 lead at halftime.

It was a balanced offensive attack in the first two quarters. Helias had 284 yards at intermission — 141 rushing and 143 passing.

"That is what our offense is designed to look like, running it and passing it," Hentges said.

A pair of long runs by Cole Stumpe sandwiched the opening seven-play drive for the Crusaders. The junior picked up 22 yards on Helias' first play of the game, then scored from 15 yards out to cap the 63-yard drive. Vinnie Calvaruso booted the first of his six extra points and Helias led 7-0 a little more than three minutes into the game.

Those were Stumpe's first two carries of the season.

Helias needed just two plays to find the end zone on its next drive, with the score coming on a 53-yard pass from Jake Weaver to Ethan Holzhauser that made it 14-0 midway through the first quarter.

A bad snap on a punt attempt by the Tigers then gave the Crusaders the ball at the Smith-Cotton 7. Weaver then connected with Stumpe on the next play for a touchdown and a 21-0 Helias lead after one quarter.

Carson Brauner of the Crusaders blocked the next punt attempt by the Tigers and Helias took over at the Smith-Cotton 23. Three plays later, Alex Clement scored from 14 yards out and it was 28-0 with just under 11 minutes to go before halftime.

Isaac Lopez's fumble recovery snuffed out the next drive for the Tigers and the Crusaders took over at their own 36. Three plays later, Weaver and Holzhauser hooked up for a 22-yard touchdown and Helias led 35-0.

With starter Damon Johanns out with an injury, Holzhauser saw his first extended time at tight end since early in the season Friday night.

"Ethan loves to play offense," Hentges said.

Holzhauser is a standout linebacker for the Crusader defense, leading the team in tackles.

"Ethan's a great football player, not just a great linebacker," Hentges said. "He can be an asset to our offense."

A third-down sack by Dylan Kopp forced a Smith-Cotton punt on the ensuing possession and Helias took over at its own 36. The Crusaders went on their longest offensive drive of the game, using 10 plays to go the 64 yards. On third-and-9, Weaver dropped back to pass, but was forced to scramble and went 13 yards for a touchdown and a 42-0 lead at intermission.

The Helias starting defense limited Smith-Cotton to just 26 total yards in the first half. The Crusaders held the Tigers to zero or negative yards on 12 of their 29 first-half plays.

"Defensively, we did a great job of swarming to the ball," Hentges said.

With the big lead and the running clock, the Helias starters sat the second half.

"We let the young kids bring it home," Hentges said.

The Tigers got the ball first to start the third quarter. Smith-Cotton ran 16 plays and more than 11 minutes off the clock before Wes Morrison came on to drill a 36-yard field goal to make it 42-3.

Helias got those points back midway through the first quarter when Calvaruso booted a 45-yard field goal.

"It was right on the edge of his range," Hentges said. "It was too close to punt, I didn't want to go for it, we gave him a shot."

It wasn't the smoothest field goal attempt you'd want to see as the second-team linemen had a little trouble getting into their proper spots before a delay of game penalty could be called.

"I was about ready to call a timeout because we were a little disheveled out there," Hentges said. "But what the heck, just let it rip. If we make it, great, if we miss it, we're OK."

Smith-Cotton is now 0-7 overall, 0-5 in the CMAC.

Helias (8-0), No. 1 in Class 4 in the Missouri Media Rankings, will wrap up the regular season Friday night at home against Cardinal Ritter. The St. Louis school is 0-2 after falling 56-34 to Class 5 No. 3 Jackson on Friday night.

Cardinal Ritter has defeated Helias the last two seasons — 61-35 in 2018 in St. Louis and 48-14 last season at Ray Hentges Stadium. The Lions had to forfeit last year's win due to using an ineligible player.

The game was added to Helias' schedule Wednesday.

"We need this challenge," Hentges said. "This will be a great re-focus game heading into districts. We're going to have to grind and I think that will pay dividends the rest of the season."

Game time is 7 p.m.

With one week to go, Helias tops the Class 4 District 6 standings with 57.87 points. Bolivar (6-2) is second at 49.38, with Warrensburg (6-1) third in the six-team district at 44.92. The top two district finishers will receive first-round byes before hosting district semifinal games Nov. 6.

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