“We told them before the game that with two evenly matched teams, it would come down to turnovers,” Wildcats coach Chuck Lliteras said. “And we had way too many mistakes to beat a good team.”
The Crusaders won their sixth consecutive game and will take a 10-4 record into the state championship game next Saturday against Webb City in St. Louis.
Harrisonville finished 11-3.
Helias’ victory on Saturday avenged a 38-37 overtime loss to Harrisonville in the first game of the season.
A mistake set up the first Helias touchdown in the second quarter on Saturday. On fourth and 7 at the Crusaders’ 49, the Wildcats decided to try a fake punt. But the snap was not fielded cleanly by the up-back. Punter Logan Teal recovered the fumble at the Harrisonville 32, and the ball went over to the Crusaders on downs.
“That was my fault for not getting the play communicated well enough,” Lliteras said.
It appeared, though, that the Wildcats had dodged that bullet when senior PJ Patton and junior Brock Kliewer sacked Helias quarterback Wyatt Porter for a 9-yard loss back to the 30.
But the left-handed Porter eluded the rush on fourth and 20, moved to his left and found senior wingback Cole Distler in stride at the 2, and Distler went in for the touchdown with 11:01 left in the second quarter.
Harrisonville mounted a drive on its next possession. But then came more mistakes.
The Wildcats had a fourth and 2 at Helias’ 15, but a receiver jumped offside.
Then after a 5-yard penalty, the Wildcats went for a fake field goal. Patton, the blocker on the left side, went in motion and took the pitch from the kicker, but his pass was intercepted at the 8 by safety JC Szumigala.
The Crusaders had the wind in the third quarter, driving the ball to the Harrisonville 23 before the drive stalled and Anthony Woodruff kicked a 40-yard field goal that made it 10-0 with 10:08 left in the quarter.
The Wildcats responded with a long drive that gave them first and goal at the Crusaders’ 8.
But on the next play, Austin Hopper, who was rushing up the middle, fumbled at the 5. The ball ended up in the end zone, and Helias linebacker Pat Ward recovered the ball for a touchback with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
Harrisonville finally got on the board with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that started in the third quarter and finished on a 5-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Zach Davidson. Senior Dakota Field added the placement that made it 10-7 with 10:05 remaining in the game.
And the Wildcats had one last chance, getting the ball at their own 28 with 6:15 left. But 15 yards in penalties and two sacks forced them into fourth and 21.
Davidson’s pass on fourth down appeared to be on target for a first down, but Helias’ Trent Dudenhoefter batted the pass down.
On the ensuing possession, the Crusaders faced a fourth and 6 at the Wildcats’ 14. They lined up for a 31-yard field-goal attempt, but the Wildcats jumped making it fourth and 1.
On the next play, Garrett Buschjost rambled 9 yards into the end zone with 57 seconds left in the game to make it 17-7.