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story.lead_photo.caption Helias defensive back Aleck Barchenski (19) grins as teammate Alex Clement pulls down an interception on a pass intended for Battle's Manny Chiteri during last Friday's game at Ray Hentges Stadium. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / California Democrat.

It's like looking in a mirror.

At least it seems that way to Helias coach Chris Hentges.

"We are comparable schools in vision and mission and how we both run our programs," Hentges said as Helias (3-0) prepares to host Borgia (2-1) tonight at Ray Hentges Stadium. "We know it's going to be a well-played, hard-fought game."

It's a step out of Central Missouri Activities Conference action for Helias. But the Crusaders won't be looking past the Knights, especially after watching film of Borgia on Monday.

"It got the kids attention and our captains and senior leadership did not allow the team to ease up even one bit," Hentges said. "This may have been our best week of practice."

After opening with wins against Pacific (49-12) and Union (28-14), Borgia is coming off a 25-20 loss last Friday night to Fox.

The Knights are averaging just under 200 yards per game on the ground. Alonzo MacDonald (5-foot-7, 175-pound sr.) tops Borgia with 324 yards on 55 carries and five rushing touchdowns.

Sam Heggemann (6-2, 195 sr.) is 28-of-51 passing for 433 yards and six touchdowns to go along with three interceptions. He also is second on the team in rushing with 127 yards and two scores.

Seven Knights have at least three receptions this season. Spencer Breckenkamp (6-6, 193, jr.) leads with six catches, totaling 79 yards and a team-high three receiving touchdowns. Sam Schmidt (6-2, 190 sr.) has four catches for 185 yards and two scores.

The Crusaders are allowing opponents an average of 19 points per game. The Helias run defense has given up just 199 yards rushing through three contests (2.1 avg,).

Helias' defensive front was tested last Friday night against Battle. The Spartans came into the game averaging nearly 350 yards on the ground, but the Crusaders limited them to just 176 on 36 attempts.

"We constricted the run lanes, played square to the line of scrimmage, got big in the gaps and had the linebackers play downhill," Hentges said. "Our defensive front seven all played really well."

The Helias offense, which is averaging just under 47 points per game, should face a 3-4 defensive front from Borgia.

"It's the same we've seen from them before and they play it well," Hentges said. "They play really solid fundamental football, they're always in the right spot."

After a 40-year break, the Crusaders and Knights met the last two years. Borgia defeated Helias 41-13 in 2018 before the Crusaders won last season's meeting 47-7 in Washington.

"When you've played them the last two years, you have proven data of what they are likely to do against you," Hentges said. "They may change the game plan, but a program like Borgia, you know they are going to do what they do. They aren't going to bring in some new wholesale defense for one week."

Helias had its way with the Battle defense last Friday night, scoring six touchdowns in the first half.

"I was really happy with our first-half execution, especially offensively," Hentges said. "We answered every one of their scoring drives with a scoring drive.

"We turned that one-score game into a two-score game into a three-score game."

Helias ran 51 times for 325 yards, both season highs, against Battle. Jake Weaver led the way with 126 yards, followed by Alex Clement (116) and Ryan Klahr (80).

The trio reaped the rewards of good work by the Crusader offensive line. And as impressive a performance as it was, Hentges said the Crusaders can do better at the line of scrimmage.

"As a group, we have room to improve," Hentges said. "We can be a little more sound in our assignments."

With a 22-point halftime lead last Friday, the Crusaders turned it over to their defense in the second half.

"We always challenge the guys at halftime when we're up, 'Hey, do we have enough points to win?'" Hentges said. "The answer to that was yes, so defense, pitch a shutout in the second half and the football game is ours.

"And we did that."

This game takes the place of Granite City, Ill., on Helias' schedule. Illinois has pushed football back to the spring.

"Their willingness to come here is great, to get a quality game like this at home is a big deal," Hentges said. "We have a ton of respect for Borgia."

Game time is 7 p.m.

Notes: Helias and Rock Bridge are tied atop the CMAC standings with 2-0 records. The Bruins will travel to Ray Hentges Stadium to meet the Crusaders next Friday night. Rock Bridge (2-1) hosts Capital City (0-3, 0-2) tonight. Helias starting left tackle Parker Wideman was injured in practice this week and will be a game-time decision tonight. Nicholas Heislen will start in his place if needed. Helias junior Harrison Miller, who returned punts last season and would have seen time on both offense and defense this season, remains out with a hamstring injury. Hentges said Miller may return against Rock Bridge. Vinnie Calvaruso may make his season debut tonight for the Crusaders at either punter or kicker. "We have to be careful about cutting him loose 100 percent because we don't want him to get re-injured now that we've finally got him back," Hentges said. Carson Brauner may see more time in the backfield this week to give Helias a more physical rushing presence against a rugged Borgia defense. Helias is still open in Week 9. While the Crusaders have done some preliminary looks at potential opponents, the search won't intensify until after class and district assignments are released next week by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

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