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story.lead_photo.caption The Helias offensive line looks to the sideline for the play call during the first half of a game earlier this month against Cardinal Ritter at Ray Hentges Stadium. Photo by Kris Wilson / California Democrat.

The Helias Crusaders are 4-1, ranked No. 9 in Class 4. The Father Tolton Trailblazers are 0-5.

Don't think for a minute Helias is looking past Tolton as they get set to meet tonight in Columbia.

"Fundamentally, it's a good football team that has played a very tough schedule," Helias coach Chris Hentges said. "A lot of teams would be 0-5 with the schedule they've played."

Tolton is coached by former Missouri tight end Michael Egnew, hired after Chad Masters took the head-coaching position at Vianney.

The Trailblazers don't rely on the passing game as much as they have in the past few years when Robert Hunter was at quarterback.

"They threw it all over the yard last year, but now they're using a little more of their run game," Hentges said.

Gabe Pfenenger is the Tolton quarterback. The Trailblazers are completing a little more than 50 percent of their passes this season, averaging about 160 yards per game through the air.

"(Pfenenger) distributes the football well, gets it to where it needs to be," Hentges said. "They do a very good job of getting their playmakers the football."

C.J. Campbell is a threat on offense for the Trailblazers, who are averaging just under 14 points game.

"He's a big part of their run game," Hentges said. "They find ways to get him the ball, he jumps off the screen when you watch them play. He's dangerous, we won't catch him if he gets away from us."

Connor Fogue is another threat out of the backfield for Tolton.

"He's a hard-nosed player that can be tough to bring down," Hentges said.

Against that tough schedule, the Trailblazers have struggled defensively this season.

The fewest points Tolton has allowed in a game this season is 35, that coming in Week 3 against Borgia.

Tolton entered the season with a handicap as standout Monroe Mills suffered a torn ACL during the summer. The talented lineman, who was third in the Class 1 state wrestling championships at 285 pounds earlier this year, has verbally committed to Oklahoma State.

"You can see that has hurt them both on offense and defense," Hentges said.

For their part, the Crusaders are striving to play as close to a complete football game as possible tonight.

"We need to make sure that we execute in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams," Hentges said. "We need to get better at what we're doing."

Helias is coming off what might have been its best game of the season, beating Borgia 47-7 last Friday night in Washington.

"Overall, it was a clean game and it showed up on the scoreboard," Hentges said.

Offensively, the Crusaders were pleased with their passing game against the Knights, throwing for 300 yards and four scores.

"I wish we would have been a little more proficient in running the football," Hentges said. "But I was happy with the way we protected the quarterback, the way we threw the ball, the way we ran our routes."

The Helias run game will have a bit of a different look again this week. Ryan Klahr, who started against Borgia in place of the injured Alex Clement and Brody Mays and ran for a touchdown, will miss tonight's game with a shoulder injury.

Mays will return tonight and should be at full speed, Hentges said.

Thomas Bruemmer and Carson Brauner, who also saw action at running back against Borgia, will join Mays in the running back rotation tonight.

"It will be by-committee and I'm sure we'll get the job done," Hentges said.

Defensively, Helias allowed a touchdown on the first drive of the game to Borgia, but then held the Knights to a little more than 200 yards in the final 44-plus minutes.

Play from the special teams was big last Friday, pinning Borgia back on kicks while getting good returns.

"Our punt returns and kickoff returns were both very good," Hentges said. "We set the offense up with very good field position all night."

Harrison Miller was impressive in his debut in returning punts for the Crusaders.

"He did a great job," Hentges said. "It's good for a team to catch the ball and get up the field and that's something we've struggled with at times this season."

As often has happened in recent years after Helias touchdowns, Vito Calvaruso booted the ball into the end zone on the ensuing Crusader kickoff to force the opponent to start at its own 20.

"Vito kept flipping the field," Hentges said.

It's hard for most high school teams to consistently drive 80 yards for touchdowns.

"You just don't see a leg like his at the high school level very often, to be able to kick it that deep with that much hang time," Hentges said.

Tolton has less than 30 players on its roster for the 7 p.m. contest.

"Their kids play hard," Hentges said. "I expect them to come out and play a good game against us. We respect Tolton, it's a good football program and you can tell they have been working hard."

Notes: Helias leads the all-time series 3-0 with Tolton. The Crusaders have outscored the Trailblazers 110-28 at home, but got all they wanted in their only game in Columbia in 2017, holding on for a 24-20 victory. This will be Helias' lone game on a grass surface in the regular season. In an effort to prepare for the different footing, Helias held its final practice of the week on the old practice field south of the school Thursday. For the second straight week, Helias is someone's Homecoming opponent as Tolton will celebrate tonight. It is just the second home game of the season for the Trailblazers. "This is a big game for them and we need to be ready from the start," Hentges said. Tolton has losses to Hallsville (40-0), Lutheran: St. Charles (61-12), Borgia (35-14), St. Dominic (50-28) and Cardinal Ritter (72-14). Hallsville is receiving votes in this week's Class 2 Missouri Media Rankings, while Lutheran: St. Charles is No. 9 in Class 3. Borgia fell out of the Class 3 rankings after losing to Helias, while Cardinal Ritter is No. 1 in Class 2. Helias is third in the Class 4 District 5 standings after five weeks with 47.8 points. Lebanon (53.95) and Camdenton (51) hold down the top two spots. "We've got a lot of tough games and a tough district ahead of us," Hentges said. "But we're making progress to where we want to be." Helias will wrap up its three-game road trip next Friday night at Monroe City.

Related Media: Helias Crusaders Football Podcast [Father Tolton preview, Oct. 4, 2019]

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