COLUMBIA, Mo. — Drew Miller is getting comfortable at starting quarterback for the Helias Crusaders.
And it's showing up in the win column.
"After Week One, it settled in," Miller said Friday night after leading Helias to a 34-13 victory against the Rock Bridge Bruins in Central Missouri Activities Conference action. "Hickman (in Week 2) was a good game to really settle my nerves and get used to the offense and the quicker pace of varsity football."
Miller was 11-of-13 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns against the Bruins.
"I think Drew played his best game of the season, running and throwing," Helias coach Chris Hentges said.
Miller ran seven times for 33 yards, including a pair of 16-yard carries.
"I'll do it when I can, if it's there, I'll take it," he said.
Helias' success through the air was important Friday night as the Crusaders had problems establishing a run game. Helias finished with 172 yards on the ground, 111 of which came in the second half.
"They played a seven-man box, it's hard to run against that in high-school football," Hentges said.
The Crusaders got the ball first Friday night and went 76 yards in 10 plays to take an early lead.
A 29-yard pass from Miller to Kaden Hampson on third-and-16 keyed the drive, which ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Carson Brauner. Vinnie Calvaruso added the PAT and Helias led 7-0.
The Bruins had a lengthy opening drive of their own, getting to the Crusader 35. But on fourth-and-5, Beau Bondurant of the Crusaders sacked Bruins quarterback Nate Dent for a 9-yard loss to give the ball back to Helias.
The Crusaders needed just five plays to go the 56 yards. The final 39 came when Miller connected with a wide-open Ryan Klahr down the field for a touchdown. The PAT went off the upright and it was 13-0 with :06.2 left in the first quarter.
Rock Bridge responded by going 80 yards in 16 plays, which included a fourth-down conversion deep in Helias territory. The score came on a 10-yard pass from Dent to Payton Messer. The PAT cut Helias' lead to 13-7 with 4:12 to go before halftime.
Helias made it 3-for-3 on scoring drives on its next possession. The Crusaders had it first-and-goal on the Bruin 5 before Calvaruso came on to kick a 27-yard field goal to push Helias' lead 16-7 with 1:32 on the clock.
A long run by Dent, with a penalty for a horse-collar tackle added on, got the Bruins into Crusader territory as the clock dropped below a minute to go in the half. A pair of incompletions left the Bruins facing a third-and-10 when Dent dropped back a third straight time to throw a pass out into the flat on his left side.
But Hampson was there to pick it off and he returned it 75 yards for a touchdown with :49.1 on the clock.
"He had nothing but green grass ahead of him," Hentges said. "Any time you score on defense is big."
Hentges believes that play turned the momentum toward the Crusaders, who took a 23-7 lead into half after Calvaruso booted the extra point.
"If they take the ball down and score there, then come out and score getting the ball first in the second half, it's a totally different ballgame," he said.
Helias tallied the lone touchdown of the third quarter, that coming on a 6-yard pass from Miller to Cole Stumpe. After the Bruins were flagged for jumping offside on the extra-point kick, the Helias offense came back out on the field for a 2-point conversion Brauner carried into the end zone to make it 31-7.
Calvaruso's second field goal of the game, this one from 24 yards with 5:19 to go, pushed Helias' lead to 34-7.
Rock Bridge (3-2 overall, 3-1 CMAC) got its final touchdown against the Helias second-unit defense, with Sam Kaiser throwing a 45-yard score to Messer with 4:32 remaining.
"Anytime you go on the road to Columbia and beat your rival, it's a good day," Hentges said.
Helias finishes 3-0 against Columbia schools this year, adding Friday night's win to those against Hickman and Battle.
The Class 5 No. 9 Crusaders (4-1, 3-0) will take on a pair of hometown foes the next two weeks at Ray Hentges Stadium. Helias will host Capital City this Friday, then face Jefferson City on Oct. 9.
"We know how big these games are, but we're going to play it a game at a time," Miller said.
This Friday's game against the Cavaliers is Homecoming for the Class 5 No. 9 Crusaders (4-1, 3-0).