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SportsZone Football Friday game of the week preview: Helias vs. Rock Bridge

Members of the Rock Bridge football team celebrated a touchdown on Sept. 17, 2021.
Members of the Rock Bridge football team celebrated a touchdown on Sept. 17, 2021.


The Rock Bridge Bruins and Helias Crusaders both sit a 3-1 so far this season and, on Friday night, the two will take the field in the SportsZone Football Friday game of the week.

You can watch the game live on KZOU over the air channel 17.3 at 7 p.m. Here is a look at other local listings:

  • DirecTV - channel 18
  • Dish Network - channel 32
  • Mediacom - channel 12, 709
  • Centurylink - channel 12
  • Spectrum - channel 183

Or watch the replay in the player below.

Each team started the year off with a loss, but has seemingly picked up their rhythm after that. Van Vanatta's Bruins team has put at least 40 points in three-straight wins heading into week five.

"Our focus the last few weeks has been continuing to get better at what we do, keep grinding and doing what we do," Vanatta said. "That's where we've found success, you know, we've played really well over the last few weeks because we've done some good things. I think that's making us better as a team because we're just continuing to get better at how we do things."

Vanatta added that his offense has grown more and more into its identity and it's not necessarily one that is going to break off for a 50, 60 yard play at any given moment.

"What we have is we have a lot of guys that can do some good things and get positive yards. We know that our offense isn't designed around backs that can break for 99 yards. We just don't have that," he said. "I would like to see it happen, but what we do, our identity is to move the chains, keep our defense off the field, keep moving the football, and then the big plays come."

The Crusaders also started their season with a 34-point loss to a red hot Hannibal Pirates team. Head coach Chris Hentges said he feels that his team gained experience from that loss.

"I don't know if anything changed, it's just experience and the value of experience with an inexperienced team," he said. "We didn't have a lot of starters coming back from last year's team and Hannibal was a really good week one opponent. Not that we didn't practice hard, not that we weren't ready, it just kind of snowballed against us."

Hentges said that he knows his team's week five matchup with Rock Bridge will consist of the same old, well-coached, tough Bruins team that he's been facing for years.

In the Bruins' and Crusaders' 2020 matchup, Helias took a 32 point victory before heading to an undefeated, state championship win. Vanatta said he knew Hentges' team had that potential right after they played.

"I walked out of that game last year saying if they're not playing in the state championship, then something's wrong cause they were a solid, solid football team," he said. "This year they're solid again, really good football players. But, again, a lot like us, a lot of those guys haven't played in the limelight, in big games like this."

Helias and Rock Bridge has become a rivalry of sorts, from Jefferson City to Columbia. Hentges said that games like these always mean just a little bit more.

"What makes a great high school rivalry, you know, it's the back and forth, the successes, the failures," he said. "I was trying to figure this out the other day - when you look at Rock Bridge, Helias over the last 36 meetings, that's kind of where I figured we would be meeting wise, I think we're pretty close to 18-18. We might have a slight edge. It might be 19-17, but it's really, really close."

Rock Bridge and Helias will kick off at Rock Bridge High School at 7 p.m. ABC17 Sports Director Andrew Kauffman will have live coverage from the field on ABC17 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Be sure to catch the highlights from that game on SportsZone Football Friday at 10: 15 p.m

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Nathalie Jones

Nathalie anchors and reports sports for ABC17. She started working at the station in June 2020.


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