COLUMBIA — It was a big step in the race for the Central Missouri Activities Conference championship for the Helias Crusaders.
The Crusaders scored 10 points in the final 1:32 of the first half Friday night on their way to a 34-13 win against the Rock Bridge Bruins.
"A lot of credit to the players and the coaches, this was a meaningful game for us," Helias coach Chris Hentges said. "It gives us the lead in the CMAC."
With the victory, Helias is now 4-0 in the conference while dropping Rock Bridge to 3-1. The defending conference champion Crusaders have three more CMAC games on their schedule.
Helias got the ball first Friday night and went 76 yards in 10 plays to take the lead. A 29-yard pass from Drew Miller to Kaden Hampson keyed the drive, capped by a 4-yard run by Carson Brauner for the touchdown. Vinnie Calvaruso booted the PAT and the Crusaders led 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
The Bruins answered with a long drive of their own. Starting at their own 20 after a touchback on Calvaruso's kickoff, the Bruins moved to the Crusader 35 in 10 plays. But on fourth down, Beau Bondurant sacked Rock Bridge quarterback Nathan Dent for a 9-yard loss to give the ball back to the Crusaders.
Four plays later, Helias was back in the end zone when Miller connected with a wide-open Ryan Klahr down the field for a 39-yard touchdown and a 13-0 Crusader lead with :06.2 left in the first quarter.
"I thought we seized control of the football game early," Hentges said.
Rock Bridge then went on a 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive. The Bruins got 12 yards on a fourth-and-7 play in Crusader territory to keep the drive going, with the score coming on a 10-yard pass from Dent to Payton Messer. The PAT was good to cut Helias' lead to 13-7 with 4:12 remaining in the first half.
After a long kickoff return by Bondurant, Helias started its next drive on the Rock Bridge 41. The Crusaders drive stalled at the Bruins' 10 and Calvaruso came on to kick a 27-yard field goal to make it 16-7 with 1:32 left.
Rock Bridge got out to near midfield on its next drive before Hampson intercepted a Dent pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown with :49.1 remaining before halftime. Calvaruso's PAT gave the Crusaders a 23-7 advantage going into intermission.
"That pick-6 changed the complexion of the ballgame," Hentges said.
After forcing a Rock Bridge punt to start the second half, Helias took over on its own 39. Eleven plays later, Cole Stumpe caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Miller. The Bruins were flagged for offside on the Crusader kick attempt at a PAT, so the Helias offense came back out on the field to go for a 2-point conversion. Brauner pushed his way into the end zone and Helias led 31-7 with a little more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Calvaruso kicked a 24-yard field goal with 5:19 left in the game to increase Helias' lead to 34-7.
The Bruins got their final touchdown against the Crusaders' second-team defense as Sam Kaiser threw a 45-yard scoring pass to Messer with 4:32 remaining.
Rock Bridge finished with 195 total yards and nine first downs, just two in the second half. The Bruins had 30 carries for 41 yards.
Will Herrbold paced Helias with 83 yards rushing on nine carries. The Crusaders finished with 172 yards on the ground on 35 carries.
Miller was 11-of-13 passing for 179 yards. Six different Crusaders had receptions Friday night.
Rock Bridge (3-2 overall, 3-1 CMAC) will play next Friday at Liberty.
Helias (4-1, 3-0), ranked No. 9 in Class 5, will host Capital City for Homecoming next Friday.