There's no such thing as a must-win in Week 5 of the football season.
But the Helias Crusaders (2-2) have a couple of reasons for extra inspiration heading into tonight's game against the Borgia Knights (4-0) at Ray Hentges Stadium.
First, looking down the road, Helias and Borgia are both in Class 4 District 5. The Knights are currently on top of the district standings, while Helias is fourth.
"District position is at stake, you don't know how it's going to shake out at the end, but you always want to get that edge against an opponent that could get you potentially another district home game," Helias coach Chris Hentges said.
Second, and currently more important, the Crusaders are looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
"We're trying to bounce back, we're working hard to try to get better," Hentges said. "The boys have done a great job of responding the way we want them to respond and we're looking forward to playing better on our home field."
Borgia enters tonight's game ranked No. 9 in Class 4, the third straight week Helias will face a state-ranked foe.
"Borgia reminds you a lot of the Helias teams from the past, very solid and well-coached," Hentges said. "You know they're going to be in the right positions at all time and we're going to have to play a very good game."The Knights will bring a potent offense into the game, averaging 44.5 points per contest.
Borgia does a lot of its work on the ground. In its 200 offensive plays so far this season, they've rushed 162 times for a total of 1,240 yards (7.7 avg.).
Louis Eckelkamp (5-foot-9, 220 pounds), a senior, leads the Knights with 520 yards (7.5 avg.) and nine touchdowns rushing in Borgia's veer attack.
"He's very explosive, hard to tackle," Hentges said. "It's hard for our scout team to simulate the kind of power he runs with. We have to make the adjustment to that early in the game."
The Knights use a two-quarterback system.
Cole Meyer (5-9, 160 sr.) is second on the team in rushing with 350 yards (9.0 avg.) and six touchdowns. Through the air, Meyer is 13-of-21 for 210 yards and a touchdown. Sam Heggemann (6-2, 185 soph.) is 8-of-16 passing for 127 yards, while running 15 times for 143 yards (9.5 avg.) and two scores.
"They are versatile enough that they can do both run and pass," Hentges said.
Tyler Glosemeyer (5-6, 145 sr.) leads the Knights with 184 yards on four receptions. He has both of Borgia's touchdown catches this season.
Defensively, Hentges said the Knights are solid all over the field.
"Their defensive front and linebackers, their secondary, they all play very well," Hentges said. "They are great readers. they tackle well in space. They just don't miss tackles, that's one thing that sticks out to me watching them on film."
The Knights are allowing just under 21 points per contest out of their 3-4 front.
Hentges said the Knights don't give up big plays.
"As an offense against them, you have to realize you need to be happy with 5-yard gains a lot of the time, you're not going to get a lot of shots over the top because of the way they play defensively," Hentges said. "Patience on offense is important against them."
And if you get impatient, the Knights can make you pay for it. Borgia has 11 interceptions in four games this season.
Matthew Sinnott (5-10, 205 sr.) leads the Knights with 44 total tackles (32 solo) and five of those interceptions from his linebacker spot. Braedyn Frankenburg is next in tackles with 23. He has four tackles for loss and three sacks.
There weren't a lot of positives for Helias in last Friday night's 61-35 loss to Cardinal Ritter in St. Louis. But one was the running game, which picked up a season-high 246 yards.
"We did a good job of run-blocking, we made strides," Hentges said. "We developed more confidence in our run game."
Helias struggled against the talented Cardinal Ritter offense, which scored the first six times it had the ball.
"It turned pretty quick and we couldn't seize that momentum back," Hentges said. "They had an answer to what we were trying to do defensively."
Hentges said the coaches bear the responsibility of helping the Crusaders succeed.
"We have to put our kids in better situations," he said.
It's the first year for the staff under Hentges, who is in his second stint as head coach at Helias.
"We're learning as coaches, making corrections just like we're asking the boys to do," he said. "I have to keep reminding myself we're not in Year 8 or Year 9 of a program. When you're in Year 1, there are things that still need to be taught and need to be developed. We're working on those things every day.
"We're dealing with a lot of young guys and you just need to keep teaching and teaching to see improvement. But I'm proud of everybody's effort so far."
Game time is 7 p.m.
Notes: This is the first of a two-year football contract between Helias and Borgia, who were regular foes back in the 1970s. "Who knows? Maybe this is something we can continue after this two-year cycle," Hentges said. "We share a lot of the same missions and goals as similar-sized schools." Dylan Weaver will return at cornerback after missing the game against Cardinal Ritter, as will Michael Stroesser on the offensive and defensive lines. Elliot Verslues, a senior defensive end, will see his first action of the season for the Crusaders. Garrett Schnieders, Helias' leading tackler, will miss his second straight start at middle linebacker. Brody Mays will start in his place. Senior wide receiver/defensive back Ethan Johnson will be out for up to three weeks with a shoulder injury. Borgia has opened the season with wins against Pacific (42-6), Union (44-26), Father Tolton (49-21) and St. Mary's (43-30). Four of Helias' five games to close the regular season are at home.