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story.lead_photo.caption A Helias player raises four fingers in the huddle to signify the beginning of the fourth quarter of a game this season against Rock Bridge at Ray Hentges Stadium. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / California Democrat.

And then there was one.

The Helias Crusaders enter the postseason as the lone remaining undefeated team in Class 4 and are No. 1 in the Missouri Media rankings. The spotlight is on the Crusaders and they are just fine with that.

"Our boys are really confident," Helias coach Chris Hentges said as the Crusaders have a bye week before hosting a District 6 semifinal contest next Friday. "We're comfortable with where we're at. I don't think we feel like there's a target on us and we aren't able to perform under that pressure.

"It's something our seniors worked hard to achieve and they seem to be comfortable with where we're at."

The Crusaders are using this week as  time for preparation for the postseason.

"This week is about improving Helias," Hentges said. "Self improvement, what do we need to do to get better?

"Things offensively in the pass game, working on individual stuff on the defensive side. And we've done some special team things, clean up some of those mistakes we've made in recent weeks."

The run to a potential district title will be a difficult one. Three District 6 teams — top-seeded Helias (9-0), second-seeded Bolivar (No. 4, 7-2) and third-seeded Warrensburg (No. 8, 6-1) enter the postseason in the Top 10, and fifth-seeded Harrisonville (6-3) fell out of the rankings this week. Fourth-seeded Nevada is 6-3, with sixth-seeded Marshall being the only district team under .500 at 2-7.

"This is going to be a tough road for us to win a district title," Hentges said. "They are all very talented teams and it will be fun to see who can come out on top in this district."

Helias got a taste of the postseason in its regular-season finale last Friday when it hosted talented Cardinal Ritter. The Crusaders claimed a 27-18 victory against the Lions.

"It provided a challenge we needed to prepare for district and state playoffs to come," Hentges said. "To play a team with that kind of talent and speed was a good measuring stick for us."

The Crusaders had their normal day of weight-lifting and conditioning Monday before taking off Tuesday. The last three days of the practice week have been spent on self-improvement, with brief glances at potential semifinal opponents Nevada and Harrisonville.

The win against Cardinal Ritter wrapped up Helias' first undefeated regular season since 2009. That success has been a team effort, Hentges said, with some players perhaps going under the radar.

On the offensive side, Cole Stumpe's emergence as a weapon in the pass game has been a key to Helias' success.

"We thought he would be a big key for our offense, but he's been a pleasant surprise with his development," Hentges said.

Ryan Klahr has been a more than capable backup to starter Alex Clement at running back.

"He has really helped balance out our offense, he's developed into a playmaker for us," Hentges said.

Ont the defensive side, the Crusaders have the top two tacklers in the area with Ethan Holzhauser and Isaac Lopez. But Gage Wilde has more than held his own at the third linebacker spot.

"He's a hard working kid, plugging him in at the Sam linebacker position has really solidified the linebacker group," Hentges said. "He just goes out and does his job every week. He's one of our unsung heroes on defense, but those guys are important."

Notes: The Crusaders have a few mild injury issues, with those players getting some time off this week. Hentges said he expects the Crusaders to be a full strength for next Friday's district opener. Helias will host the winner of tonight's Nevada-Harrisonville game next week. With a win, Helias would then host the district title game Nov. 13. "To have home games guaranteed can be a big advantage for us," Hentges said. Warrensburg will host Marshall in tonight's other district game. That winner will travel next Friday to Bolivar.

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