With the fourth quarter just underway, the Helias Catholic defense was looking to stop Mary Institute and St. Louis County Day School on a fourth-and-2 at the Rams’ own 28-yard line.
The Crusaders had just pulled back ahead 28-23 on their previous offensive drive after allowing the Rams to take a momentary lead, their only one of the game. It was a back-and-forth offensive contest all night, with both teams succeeding in opposite fashions: Helias on the ground; MICDS in the air.
Both teams had been successful converting on third and fourth downs — neither team punted at any point during the game. Helias coach Chris Hentges said he understood MICDS’s decision to go for the conversion despite its field position.
“This was kind of an offensive game,” Hentges said. “They didn’t want to give it back to us, and they thought that keeping that drive alive was the most important thing for them to do deep in their territory.”
The Rams called a pass play after failing on the previous three plays to break away on the ground. MICDS quarterback Reagan Andrew’s pass fell incomplete, and while it was unclear whether or not the ball was tipped — both teams gave different answers following the game — the result was the same. The Crusaders took over control of the ball.
“Every time we go out there on defense we’re looking to get a stop and get the ball in our offense’s hands because we know how powerful they are,” senior Ethan Holzhauser said. “We know they have potential to score on every play.”
Helias did go on to score on the following drive, extending its lead to 35-23 midway through the fourth quarter.
Helias outplayed MICDS (7-1) for the Missouri State High School Athletic Association Class 4 championship, winning 35-30. It was the Crusaders first state title in 22 years and the first time they’ve won a title in a perfect season.
Hentges was wearing the same Reebok crewneck he wore the last time Helias won a state title back in 1998, his father’s last year as the Crusaders’ coach, as he sat behind the Class 4 trophy during the post game press conference.
“I just kept it in my closet and I saw it today,” Hentges said. “I wear it from time to time. I just thought, ‘I’m just gonna wear this thing.’ I just put it on just to have that little, a little good luck charm.”
The Crusaders early lead came after stifling the Rams’ first drive with an interception by Carson Drainer. Helias (14-0) quarterback Jacob Weaver led his offense down the field with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that he capped by connecting with Cole Stumpe for a 15-yard passing touchdown.
On Helias’ second scoring drive — and its second, period — Weaver showcased his running chops by converting four third downs on his feet and rushing for a total of 69 yards. He punched in the touchdown on fourth-and-two to give the Crusaders a two-score lead with a little over a minute to go in the half.
Rams quarterback Reagan Andrew, who earned his team most of their yards through the air, responded with three consecutive completions of over 10 yards to quickly move MICDS into Crusaders territory. The Rams earned their first touchdown of the game with 15.1 seconds to spare in the half to make the score 14-10.
Both teams scored on their first possession of the second half, but MICDS caught its momentary lead after a big defensive stop on Helias’ second possession. It was one of the few missteps the Crusaders offense had all game, ending the drive on a fourth-and-four at their own 39-yard line.
Weaver and his offense were quick to correct their mistake on the following drive though, and the Crusaders defense did its best to get off the field as quickly as possible on each of the Rams’ drives.
For many of Helias’ seniors, the win marked the end of a much longer journey. Hentges noted that some of his players have been teammates for 10 years, starting in little league.
“It was just a special moment,” Weaver said. “I dreamed this since I was a little kid. I’m pretty sure we all did.”
The Class 2 Show-Me Bowl game was also played Friday night in Jefferson City. Lamar faced off against St. Pius X at Blair Oaks High School, with the Tigers emerging victorious in a low-scoring game riddled with turnovers. The final score was 6-3.
Neither team scored until late in the third quarter, with St. Pius X getting on the board first with a field goal. It was the Warriors second field goal attempt of the night after their first from 12 yards out fell short.
The Tigers answered on their following drive with a 74-yard touchdown that would end up being the winning play just prior to the end of the third quarter. The point after attempt was no good.