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story.lead_photo.caption Helias soccer players warm up while waiting for the Gateway Legacy Christian Academy team to arrive Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, at the Crusader Athletic Complex in Jefferson City. Photo by Tom Rackers / News Tribune.

All you could do was admire what you saw.

"It's solid, it's technical, it's the best soccer I've seen on this field," Helias coach Jay Hebenheimer said after the Crusaders dropped a 9-1 decision Wednesday night to the Gateway Legacy Lions at the Crusader Athletic Complex.

"It was fun to watch, even though we were on the wrong end of it."

Gateway Legacy Christian Academy is a college prep school located in Florissant in the St. Louis area. The school is a MSHSAA affiliate member and is not eligible to play in the postseason.

The Lions, who feature a roster of international players and play all of their games on the road, have lost just once this season, falling 4-3 to traditional state power C.B.C.

"It was a rough night, but the boys saw what top-level players look like," Hebenheimer said.

Gateway Legacy jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening seven minutes.

"We were a little startled in the beginning," Hebenheimer said. "But once we settled in, we played them as well as we could."

Helias got on the board about nine minutes in when Logan Wilson hit a long serve that Conner Mudd went up to head into the net in what was an outstanding play by both Crusaders.

The goal was a reason to celebrate in the locker room at halftime.

"We were all hooping and hollering, even though we were down," Hebenheimer said. "We were excited about a play like that."

The Crusaders went into intermission trailing 4-1 after allowing a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes. The Lions finished with 11 total shots in the first half and drew 12 offside calls as the Crusader defense tried everything it could to slow down the speedy attack.

Gateway scored five times in the second half, ending the game by the eight-goal mercy rule with a little less than 14 minutes to play.

"They are physical, they know how to use that to their advantage," Hebenheimer said. "They are smart in how they use their bodies to their advantage, it's not dirty, it's smart."

The Crusaders switched things defensively in the second half. The Lions were slotting passes through gaps in the opening 40 minutes, so the Crusaders closed those holes and forced Gateway Legacy to pass the ball over the defense after halftime.

"They still got five on us," Hebenheimer said. "We did what we could.

"We won't see another team like that the remainder of the season,"

Pedro Lucas scored five goals for the Lions (6-1-1) and now has 19 goals this season.

"To my boys' credit, the toughness we showed tonight was more than we have at any time this season," Hebenheimer said. "The boys stayed up, they didn't get down at any point. They knew the caliber of opponent we were playing."

Helias (1-3) is back in action Friday and Saturday at the Missouri Catholic Soccer Showcase in Springfield. The Crusaders will open against Springfield Catholic at 5 p.m. Friday.

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