The first game of the 2016 Helias football season was against Hannibal, where the Crusaders suffered a 19-14 loss. Helias gets the rematch they hoped for as they will face Hannibal again for the District Championship game. Despite Helias meeting Hannibal for the third time since 2012 for the District Championship title game with the Crusaders wining the previous two times, Helias has been on a losing streak facing Hannibal and hopes for vengeance.
“This will be our 4th time playing them in 15 months and we are 0-3 against them,” said wide receiver and defensive back Zach Stiles. “But we know what’s at stake and we’re playing our best football all year.”
Helias has been haunted by Hannibal due to their previous meetings being ruled in favor of the Pirates. The Crusaders have been waiting for this rematch all season.
“Ever since game one of this year, our whole team has been itching to get back at Hannibal for last year and this year,” said quarterback Chandler Luebbert. “We’ve had this one circled for a long time. Everyone at the game is in for a show.”
Since Helias’s week one loss, they have refined their skills and have come together on offense to move the ball.
“I feel like we can move the ball really well against Hannibal’s defense because our offense has been clicking really well the last four or five games,” said lineman Sam Clardy. “We are playing our best football that we have played in two years right now.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Crusader’s defense plans to stop running back, Shamar Griffith, to contain Hannibal’s offense. Griffith finished the regular season match up with 8 carries and 84 rushing yards. Early in the season, he broke Hannibal’s career rushing yards record with 4,928 yards.
“We have to hit him every chance we have,” said running back/linebacker Dylan Gaines. “He will eventually stop running as hard if he’s getting hit on every play and that’s what we are going to do.”
With a win, Helias becomes the Class 4, District 7 Champions and their season continues. With a loss, Helias finishes their season. For many players, this is a factor keeping them focused.
“I plan to stay focused by just reminding myself that every play could be my last,” said Stiles. “I need to take it play by play; focus on the opportunity that a district championship is right in front of us.”
The fans can serve as a big part of a game’s atmosphere. Many Crusader fans are planning on traveling to Hannibal to cheer on the football team which is appreciated by several players.
“We have outstanding fans that always show up no matter where we are,” said Gaines. “We are excited to go and embrace this atmosphere.”
The District Title game is hosted by Hannibal on Friday, November 4, with kickoff at 7 p.m.
“We are both two very good football teams,” said Clardy. “Even though Hannibal has home-field advantage, I still feel like the Helias Crusaders can come out with a victory in the District Championship.”