It was a bit of a coach's dream for the Helias Crusaders to open the season — a win against a good opponent, but still some teachable moments.
"Anytime you open up with a win, you're happy," Helias coach Chris Hentges said. "I'm proud of the guys on a really short week to put together a good game plan against a very good opponent."
The Crusaders defeated the Lutheran: St. Charles Cougars 31-20 to open the season last Friday night at Ray Hentges Stadium. But things can always be better.
"We had moments we didn't execute very well," Chris Hentges said. "Offensively, we missed some shots, we had some open receivers and we should have scored more points. Special teams, we had the blocked punt returned and special teams mistakes can hurt. Defensively, we gave up some big pass plays in tough situations.
"Better execution was a point of emphasis this week."
Hickman is coming off a 61-23 home loss to Francis Howell last Friday. The Kewpies trailed 21-0 after one quarter and 41-7 at the half.
The Kewpies turned the ball over four times against the Vikings.
"That really helped get the game out of hand," Hentges said.
It was the starting debut for Hickman quarterback TJ Turner, who was a starting receiver last year. Turner was 17-of-30 passing for 137 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions. He also ran 10 times for 36 yards.
Devin Turner caught a pair of touchdown passes for the Kewpies, who return nine starters on offense.
"Hickman has a wealth of athletes and speed, that has definitely caught our attention," Hentges said. "We will need our 'A' game (tonight).
"We will have to tackle well."
Helias allowed just 20 yards on the ground to Lutheran: St. Charles.
"We're going to have to do our best to repeat that performance this week," Hentges said. "Their speed will test us."
Defensively, Hickman allowed nearly 400 yards of total offense to Francis Howell. But only 102 of that was on the ground as the Kewpies feature a big defensive line.
"They are playing physical, that kind of sticks out when you watch them on tape," Hentges said. "They've instilled that toughness.
"We're going to be outsized again up front."
Helias doesn't want to get caught in third-and-long situations on offense against Hickman.
"We're going to have to do a better job of running the football, they are very good on the back end of their defense," Hentges said.
It will be the first Central Missouri Activities Conference football game for both schools.
"Every opponent is going to be tough, we respect everyone in this conference," Hentges said. "It starts with Hickman. From where they were a few years ago to where they are now, they have come a long way."
Game time is 7 p.m.
On Saturday, the Helias junior varsity will travel to Tipton to take on the Cardinals' varsity squad.
Tipton found out Monday that Russellville would not be able to play this week due to a lack of available players and called Helias to see if the JV would make the trip for a game.
"It's a lot in a short stretch," Hentges said.
It's the second time the Helias JV has played the Tipton varsity. In 2008, the game was tied at 14 at the half before Tipton posted a 28-14 victory.
"It was a good game," Hentges said.
A big reason Helias accepted the game is the lack of JV games on the schedule this season. There's usually a freshman game, followed by a JV contest, each Monday. But some CMAC schools only have a freshman-sophomore team.
"We didn't want to pass up on it because our juniors need this game," Hentges said.
Helias will be taking a total of 44 players to Hickman tonight — the two-deep on offense and defense, as well as special team players. The travel squad for the Crusaders usually totals a little more than 50. Each of the 44 players will get one player pass for a fan to attend. Helias is limited to 50 tickets due to the current COVID-19 situation in Columbia, so the Crusader coaches will get the other six. Senior lineman Will Heckman will see his first action of the season tonight on the offensive line. "We've got some versatility now, guys who have learned several positions," Hentges said. "We've got eight guys now and it might take us a couple of weeks to find the right five guys for the five spots." Junior running back Ryan Klahr, who left last Friday's game with an injury, should be good to go tonight, Hentges said. Tonight's game is the only trip out of Jefferson City currently on Helias' schedule. The other two CMAC road games are against Capital City and Jefferson City at Adkins Stadium. Helias is still open in Week 9. Helias is scheduled to host Battle next Friday. The Crusaders and Spartans were voted to finish 1-2, respectively, in the CMAC Preseason Poll by area media members.