By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Webb City vs. Jefferson City Helias Catholic is becoming a familiar showdown at different levels in the MSHSAA Class 4 football playoffs.
Their 11 a.m. clash today at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis is the fourth time in five years.
Webb City, if the Cardinals can make it 4-for-4 in the rivalry, will tie Valle Catholic at 11 for the most state titles.
Phil Pitts is in his eighth year overall at two-time state champion Helias and No. 2 as the Crusaders’ head coach.
Said Pitts on Friday before the team departed for St. Louis: “It will be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to playing for the state championship. This senior class wants to be special.
“We really respect Webb City,” Pitts said. “I think the schools respect each other. Coach (John) Roderique and I talk a bit.”
The Crusaders, whose losses include three to Class 6 teams, enter with a six-game winning streak.
“Our defense has played much better,” Pitts said. “It’s allowed less than 11 points a game during the winning streak.
“It also is the schedule factor coming to fruition,” Pitts said. “I’m confident we play the best schedule among the Class 4 schools in Missouri. Our players have learned from every one of those games.”
Said Roderique: “There’s no question that Helias plays a difficult schedule. Those players are battle-tested.
“They (the Crusaders) will be tough to defend,” Roderique said. “They have good speed and are very versatile on offense (2,358 rushing yards and 2,601 passing). They have plays designed for (junior quarterback) Wyatt Porter to run the ball.
“They’re very good on defense with its strength perhaps in the secondary,” Roderique said. “But the linebackers also are aggressive and overall very good.
“The line on both sides of the ball is quick and stout and they’ll shuffle linemen in and out of the lineup,” Roderique said. “Obviously, a key on offense for us will be to control movement on the line of scrimmage.
“Again, they are balanced,” Roderique said. “Also, they are superb in the kicking game. That helps produce quality specialty teams. The coaches do a good job and the players will be prepared for this game. They are quick to take advantage of weaknesses.”
The Cardinals are seeking a third title in a row — it would be a first for the program — and a 45th straight victory. They beat Helias 41-34 in the 2008 championship game.
The Cardinals planned to work out 1 1/2 hours at MICDS on Friday afternoon, Roderique said.