The talk going into Friday night was a clash between Jefferson City's run offense and the Helias run defense.
The Jays had averaged nearly 440 yards on the ground in a three-game winning streak, while the Crusaders were giving up an average of 110 yards rushing in their five-game winning streak.
"It was just beat their wing-T, that was our mentality, beat their wing-T," Helias linebacker Gage Wilde said.
That's what the Crusaders' defense did, limiting the Jays to exactly that 110-yard average in a 51-7 victory in Central Missouri Activities Conference action at Ray Hentges Stadium.
"We were running hard right at them the whole game," Helias safety Carson Brauner said.
The dominating victory was product of a productive week.
"We fought for this one, our kids worked so hard at practice," Helias coach Chris Hentges said. "We did a lot of extra stuff, we demanded they do things right and they responded.
"It showed on the field tonight what a good week of practice can do."
Helias wanted the ball first Friday night and when Jefferson City won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, the Crusaders were more than happy to send their offense on the field to start the game.
The Crusaders needed five plays to go 74 yards for a touchdown the score coming on a 29-yard pass from Drew Miller to Ryan Klahr. Vinnie Calvaruso converted the first of six extra points and Helias led 7-0 with 10:49 to go in the first quarter.
The Jays started their first possession at their own 20 and were facing a third-and-7 after two running plays. Jefferson City quarterback Hayden Wells threw a pass Brauner intercepted and returned 29 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 Helias lead with 9:20 remaining in the opening quarter.
"That was huge," Hentges said.
It was a tough night through the air for the Jays as Jefferson City finished 5-of-14 passing for 47 yards.
No one expected Jefferson City to throw the ball that often, the Jays entered the game with 27 passes through their first six games.
"It wasn't our main thing we prepared for," Brauner said.
But the Helias defense did a good job on first and second down against the Jays, leaving Jefferson City facing several third-and-long situations.
"Watching the amount of film we have, they have never thrown that many passes," Wilde said.
But the Crusaders were ready.
"We knew if they got down in the game or it was third-and-long, they would be throwing it," Wilde, who intercepted a pass in the second quarter, said. "But against the wing-T, you have to prepare for the run first."
Miller threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kaden Hampson on Helias' next possession to make it 21-0 with 2:50 left in the first quarter. Brauner then scored his second touchdown of the night, this one on a 4-yard run early in the second quarter, to make it 28-0.
Calvaruso capped Helias' next drive with a 25-yard field to make it 31-0 midway through the second quarter.
Jefferson City started its next drive at its own 25 and needed just one play to find the end zone as David Bethune got free around the left side to go 75 yards for a touchdown.
"It was a whole new formation we weren't prepared for," Wilde said. "David is super athletic, he's an awesome player.
"When you have an all-state track guy out there, you have to give him your attention."
Bethune only carried the ball four times for 76 yards in the game after totaling 576 yards on the ground the last three weeks.
"Look at what they had been rushing and we held them to 110 as a team and 75 came on that play," Hentges said.
The ensuing kickoff left the Crusaders starting at their own 1-yard line. But an 8-yard scramble on third down by Miller got the Crusaders a first down and out of the shadow of their own end zone.
The Crusaders got to the Jays' 14 before Calvaruso came on to kick a 30-yard field goal to give Helias a 31-7 lead at the half.
Helias finished the half with 322 total yards and 17 first downs, while Jefferson City had 134 total yards and four first downs.
"I think we're really starting to come together as a defense," Wilde said. "We struggled in Week 1, but we've been building and building and building since then."
Miller threw two touchdowns passes in the third quarter — 21 yards to Klahr and a 52-yard catch and run on a screen pass to Cole Stumpe — to give the Crusaders a 48-7 lead to bring the running clock into play and end the night for the Helias starters.
Calvaruso capped the scoring with a 27-yard field goal with 2:01 left in the game.
Helias finished with a season-high 24 first downs and did not punt in the game. The only drive that did not result in a score was a missed field goal from 47 yards.
The Crusaders were battling viral issues, which Hentges stressed were not COVID related, throughout the week that limited participation at practice.
"A few of our meetings were like a tuberculosis ward during the Civil War," he said. "I wanted us to be 100 percent healthy, but our kids fought through that, they came out locked and loaded, ready to play."
Hentges credited the work of the Crusader scout team that got the defense ready to take on the wing-T.
"We really coached our scout teams up all week, it's hard to simulate that offense," he said. "Our young kids practiced the Jays offense, that's all they did up to team time at practice. That prepared our defense to have this kind of night."
Jefferson City (3-4 overall, 3-2 CMAC) will travel next Friday to Columbia to take on Battle (4-2, 3-1).
Class 5 No. 8 Helias (6-1, 5-0) can wrap up its second CMAC title next Friday with a win against Smith-Cotton (1-6, 0-5) in Sedalia.