Jefferson City's offense had been rolling during the past couple of weeks.
With 157 points in its past three games, the wing-T kept improving and the Jays looked to turn a corner.
Against Class 5 No. 8 Helias, that all came to a screeching halt Friday in a 51-7 loss at Ray Hentges Stadium.
The Jays' (3-4, 3-2 Central Missouri Activities Conference) opening offensive possession started similar to what fans have seen all season, with a handoff to wide-back Zane Wings, but the Crusaders' (6-1, 5-0 CMAC) defense blocked up the line of scrimmage and dropped Wings for a loss.
Jefferson City then added some more wrinkles that weren't seen prominently over the past couple of weeks. The Jays attempted a season-high 14 passes and completed five of them for 44 yards.
David Bethune, the Jays leading rusher and star back, was involved in the passing attack being split wide on multiple plays as a receiver while the team mixed up some new formations with some plays in shotgun and with more players split out wide while sticking to the usual wing-T formation at times.
"I've told everybody every time that we're going to do whatever we think is necessary to move the football," Jefferson City coach Damon Wells said. "So whatever that means. That's what we're going to do."
The passing attack had mixed results. Quarterback Hayden Wells was able to pick out receivers over the middle to get some chunk gains to receiver Ryan Tadsen, but there were a couple of other plays where receivers had a little bit of space and a dropped pass or a misplaced throw caused the pass to fall incomplete and hit the turf.
Wings and Tadsen also attempted passes themselves on end-around plays, but the timing was just off and receivers downfield were missed.
Those passing plays happened after the first Jays pass of the game gave Helias its second score. Bethune was split out wide and sprinted by the cornerback and upfield for a deep ball, but Hayden Wells threw the ball five yards down the field for an out.
Carsen Brauner slid over to make the interception and had nothing but green grass in front of him before waltzing into the end zone to give the Crusaders a 14-0 lead in the first quarter while Bethune stood near midfield with his hands up in confusion.
"It was a miscommunication and that's my fault," Wells said.
That was Bethune's first target or carry on a day where he only got four carries for 78 yards Friday, a mark under half of his season-low of nine carries. Fullback Kevion Pendelton continued to get the bulk of the work up the middle. Bethune's runs wide and motion wide brought out some Helias defenders while he functioned as a decoy, but the rest of the Crusader defense was able to handle to rest of the offense.
Helias did a good job on first down to stop runs and put Jefferson City in a lot of second- or third-and-longs that took out some of the running playbook possibilities. Wells said the lower number of carries for Bethune wasn't planned.
"No, not at all," Wells said. "But we were doing everything we could to try to move the football."
Also, the Jays have run multiple players throughout the season, meaning Betune has never had a massive workload in any game this year. His season-high for carries is 16 in an offense that usually shares the wealth in the run game.
Bethune took one of his carries for the Jays only score, a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter where he beat a couple of defenders to the sideline and then split through the middle of the Helias defense before leaving everyone in his wake for a score.
But that was the extent of the offense for the Jays. Other than Bethune's score, the Jays had 82 yards of offense in the unit's lowest-scoring performance of the season.
"We played a very good football team," Wells said. "And I think we understand that we are certainly not a finished product. But that's why we'll be back into the office first thing tomorrow, and have a great week of practice next week."
Next, Jefferson City will look to get back on track in its final CMAC contest of the season. The Jays play at 7 p.m. Friday at Battle (4-2, 3-1 CMAC). The Spartans beat Rock Bridge on the road in Week 7 and have won three of their past four after a loss to Helias earlier in the season.