TIPTON — The game turned on two consecutive plays that were run about 20 minutes apart.
The Helias junior varsity scored on the final play of the first half to take the lead against Tipton, then returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders posted a 27-14 victory against the Cardinals.
"We have some kids that wanted to show their coaches they want a spot on Friday nights," Helias JV coach Jeff Pickering said. "The young guys came out on short notice that they could come out and compete at a high level.
"Tipton has a tradition of being a very good football program, and for us to come out to play as well as we did against a varsity squad says a lot about our kids."
A spot opened on Tipton's schedule early in the week when Russellville was unable to play due to the lack of available players. Braby reached out to some varsity teams, as well as the Helias JV, which is short a handful of games this season.
"This is a holiday weekend, and the fact they came here means a lot to us, they didn't have to do that," Tipton coach Tony Braby said. "It was a big help for us."
The Cardinals got off to a good start Saturday, scoring on the first possession of the game. The touchdown came on a 72-yard pass from Blake Fischer to Dylan Kuttenkuler. The 2-point pass from Fisher to Hayden Dowell gave the Cardinals an 8-0 lead with 9:53 left in the first quarter.
Helias closed the gap midway through the second quarter when Drew Miller connected with Trey Bexten on a 9-yard touchdown. The PAT kick failed and Tipton led 8-6.
The Crusaders got the ball back with a little less than a minute left in the half at their own 19. They got the ball to near midfield before Miller and Beau Bondurant combined on a 54-yard touchdown pass as time expired. Philip Knox booted the PAT and Helias led 13-8 at intermission.
"That kind of broke our back and gave them some momentum," Braby said.
Helias got the ball to start the third quarter. Bondurant scooped up the bouncing kick at the Crusader 15, then broke through into open field on his way to an 85-yard return for a score. Knox's PAT gave Helias a 20-8 advantage.
"That was 14 points in a very short amount of time," Braby said.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Cardinals cut the deficit to 20-14 when Fischer and Hayden Embry combined for a 50-yard touchdown. The 2-point run failed.
The Crusaders got an insurance score late in the contest on a 28-yard run by Brady Rush. Knox's kick made the final 27-16.
"I knew we'd have our hands full," Braby said. "I knew Helias would be ready, they don't want to lose to a Class 1 school, even if it is their varsity."
Helias finished with 147 yards rushing and 167 yards passing.
"These kids are running the scout team offense every week against our varsity guys and those reps at practice matter," Pickering said. "They used what they learned against our varsity guys today."
Fischer finished 10-of-20 passing for 222 yards for the Cardinals. Tipton ran for 73 yards Saturday.
"We have played better, but the better team won," Braby said.
The Cardinals have no regrets about playing the Class 4 Crusaders.
"It was so much better than not having a game," Braby said. "This will help tremendously with the mistakes we're making. If had to prepare during the week for nothing, it would have been tough. I think we're a better club because we played.
"I hope it benefited them as much as it benefited us. I know we had fun, I hope they had fun and I'm glad we got it in."
Tipton (1-1) will play Friday at Lincoln.
Helias will wrap up a busy weekend Monday with a home freshman-sophomore game against Hickman.