COLUMBIA — The Helias Crusaders were down heading to the locker room at halftime Friday night.
Not on the scoreboard, Helias held a 21-6 lead against the Battle Spartans. They were down because they believed the lead should have been bigger.
"It was almost like we were losing by two scores when we were winning by two scores," Helias coach Chris Hentges said. "I asked the players if I told them before the game we'd be winning 21-6 at halftime, would they take it?
"Heck, yes, we would. So let's celebrate a great first half. It was a fluky ending, but it was a great first half for us."
That great first half carried over into the final two quarters as the Crusaders upended the Class 5 No. 5 Spartans 35-22 in Central Missouri Activities Conference action.
With :06 remaining in the first half, Battle took over at its own 2-yard line. The snap to quarterback Justin Goolsby in the shotgun was low and the Crusaders got pressure and looked poised to end the half with a safety.
But Goolsby was able to elude the rush and underhanded a pass forward that was intercepted by Beau Bondurant at the 2. He was stacked up at the 1 before falling into the end zone for an apparent Helias touchdown.
After a long debate, the officials ruled Bondurant's forward progress was stopped at the 1 before time expired and allowed Helias to run a play with :01 on the clock.
"It was a debate for the offensive coaches," Hentges said. "Were we going to go outside? But our guys said they were calling out the speed option, so we decided to go inside."
The Crusaders were stopped at the line of scrimmage as time expired to go into halftime with the 15-point lead.
"They had some size and they penetrated and stopped us, credit to them," Hentges said.
It was one of the rare downsides in a good first two quarters for the Crusaders.
Battle took the opening kickoff Friday night and drove 80 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown that came on a 34-yard run by Rickie Dunn. The 2-point try failed and the Spartans led 6-0.
The Spartans converted on two third-down plays on the drive — which included picking up 19 yards on third-and-17 — as well as one on fourth down.
"There was a measure of frustration, but our players and coaches are resilient," Hentges said. "Against a good opponent, things like that are going to happen. You just can't let them happen a lot."
Helias then scored three times in the second quarter.
A 19-yard run by Will Herrbold, followed by the first of five extra points by Vinnie Calvaruso, on the second play of the quarter gave Helias a 7-6 lead.
The Crusaders then scored twice in a two-minute span on a 26-yard run by Ryan Klahr and a 65-yard pass from Drew Miller to a wide-open Cole Stumpe down the left sideline.
The second score came on the first play after Harrison Miller of the Crusaders recovered a Battle fumble.
Battle scored on its first possession of the third quarter on an 11-yard pass from Goolsby to TJ Turner. The 2-point conversion cut Helias' lead to 21-14.
Helias then scored two touchdowns later in the quarter on a 15-yard run by Herrbold and a 16-yard pass from Drew Miller to Harrison Miller to give the Crusaders a 35-14 advantage with one quarter to play.
"When you have a team on the ropes like we did, we need to finish them," Hentges said. "Maybe we didn't do that tonight, but I think this tough four-quarter game is going to pay dividends down the road."
Battle's final touchdown came against the Helias second-team defense when Goolsby connected with Trey Richardson for a 25-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion made the final 35-22.
"That was a high-powered offense we faced," Hentges said. "For us to hold their starters to 14 points with our starters says a lot about our effort.
"We showed some grit in the second half, we kept fighting."
The Crusader defense did a great job containing Dunn in the run game. Outside of his 34-yard touchdown carry, he totaled just 33 yards on his other 11 attempts.
"We did a very good job of gang-tackling him, which we knew we needed to do," Hentges said.
Klahr and Herrbold gave the Crusaders a pair of 100-yard rushers in the game. Klahr finished with 116 yards on nine carries, while Herrbold totaled 101 on eight attempts.
Drew Miller finished 10-of-16 passing for 154 yards.
Helias only punted once in the game.
Battle (1-1 overall, 0-1 CMAC) will host Hickman this Friday.
Helias (2-1, 2-0) will host Granite City, Ill., on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.