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story.lead_photo.caption Helias defensive back Drew Higgins bats away a pass intended for Rock Bridge wide receiver Payton Messer during last Friday night's game at Ray Hentges Stadium. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / California Democrat.

For years, it was a familiar routine for the Helias Crusaders.

Get dressed for the game at the school, then board the buses to travel down Stadium Boulevard to Adkins Stadium for a home football game. Stretch, then play.

"We have a lot of coaches who are familiar with that routine," Helias coach Chris Hentges said as the Crusaders prepare to take on the Capital City Cavaliers in a Central Missouri Activities Conference game tonight at Adkins Stadium. "We know the layout, we know what the time schedule will be.

"It's something we did for years, be dressed and ready to go."

But it will be new to this group of Crusaders, it's a trip they haven't had to make since Ray Hentges Stadium opened on the Helias campus at the start of the 2017 season.

"We know how to handle it," Chris Hentges said. "We feel confident the kids will be ready for it."

The Cavaliers (0-5 overall, 0-4 CMAC) are going through growing pains in the first varsity season and just the second year of the program. Capital City is coming off a 36-0 loss last Friday to Jefferson City.

But Hentges pointed to the week before, when the Cavaliers ran for 486 yards out of their wing-T offense in a 76-49 loss at Rock Bridge

"You could tell they were starting to understand what coach (Shannon) Jolley is trying to teach them," Hentges said. "That offense is built to run the football. They are all young and the beauty of that is they will continue to develop and become a dangerous football team."

The Cavaliers have run for 1,321 yards through five games, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

Ethan Wood leads Capital City with 419 yards (5.3 avg.). Ian Nelson is next at 350 (5.6), while Hurley Jacobs has totaled 256 yards (4.2) and leads the team with six touchdowns.

Jacobs (182 pounds) and Nelson (195) were both qualifiers for the Class 3 state wrestling championships earlier this year.

"They have some hard-nosed runners," Hentges said.

Helias has had its hands full with wing-T offenses in the last two seasons in splitting a pair of decisions with Monroe City.

"Monroe City was really good at running it," Hentges said. "They just frustrated you and frustrated you.

"It's third-and-4 and you hold them to two yards and you think as a defense you're coming off the field. But you're not because they have so much confidence in their rushing attack, they are going to go for it. Getting off the field is often going to mean stopping them on fourth down and we have to be prepared to do that against Capital City."

In an effort to mimic the Capital City offense as best it could in practice, the Crusaders turned to someone who knows the offense very well.

Aleck Barchenski, a senior starting safety, was the quarterback for the Eldon eighth-grade team that ran the same offense Jolley installed as head coach of the Mustangs.

"He's done a wonderful job of running our scout team," Hentges said. "He was strong, he's given us a good look. I think we've been able to simulate it pretty well, we gave our defense a pretty good look."

The Cavaliers have struggled on the defensive side of the football, allowing nearly 440 yards and 58 points per game.

Capital City runs a 3-4 defense, shifting to a four-man front at times. The Crusaders don't have anything special dialed up for the Cavaliers.

"We will be who we are offensively," Hentges said.

A focus of the offense this week has been talking about not getting frustrated when Capital City puts together a long drive.

"They will burn time off the clock," Hentges said. "We have to realize they are going to have some success running the football. We're going to have to make every possession count when we get that."

The Helias offense is clicking on all cylinders through five games, averaging 49 points and nearly 460 yards of offense.

Helias (5-0, 3-0) scored 56 points and went above 500 yards of total offense for the second straight week in a Homecoming win last Friday against Rock Bridge.

"I thought our offense really played well," Hentges said. "We had some sputtering drives early in the game, but we executed well in the second half."

The Crusaders are looking to carry that into tonight's game at their old home field.

"We have a lot of memories there, a lot of fun nights there," Hentges said.

The only difference is Helias will be on the visitors sideline.

"It doesn't matter what side we're on, we're going to show up and be ready to play," Hentges, who was on the visiting sideline twice in the early 1990s as an assistant coach at Kirksville in games against Helias, said. "We're in for a physical battle. We have to have it buckled up pretty tight."

Game time is 7 p.m.

Notes: Helias has won its last three regular-season games at Adkins Stadium, beating Father Tolton, Kirksville and De Smet in 2016. Some Crusaders played last season at Adkins Stadium when Helias defeated Capital City in a JV game. Helias remained No. 1 in Class 4 in the Missouri Media Rankings this week, getting nine of the 10 first-place votes. The Crusaders are the lone remaining CMAC undefeated team. Helias is closing in on a decision to fill the open spot in Week 9. "We don't want to be open Week 9 with the possibility of getting a bye in the first round of districts," Hentges said. He said Helias hopes to finalize a decision on the opponent in the next 7-10 days. Helias tops the Class 4 District 6 standings with 60.84 points this week. Bolivar, No. 4 in the latest state rankings, is second with 50.91 in the six-team district. The top two teams will receive first-round byes in district play. ... Helias will return to Adkins Stadium next Friday night to take on Jefferson City in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. "We're excited about this two-game stretch," Hentges said. "But we're going to take them one at a time, and it starts with Capital City."

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