The Rolla Bulldogs will return to the pitch this Thursday evening when they host the Jefferson City Helias Crusaders in a tough season opener.

The Rolla Bulldogs will return to the pitch this Thursday evening when they host the Jefferson City Helias Crusaders in a tough season opener.

Rolla coach Mike Howard is looking forward to the early-season challenge, which can pay off down the road when the postseason arrives.

“It’s always a great match when we play Helias. They are very well coached and extremely athletic,” he stated. “Our non-conference is tough to help prepare us for the postseason.”

Helias Coach Jay Hebenheimer likes the way things have gone for his club leading up to the match and the jamboree has put the team in a good spot as well.

“The team has been putting in a lot of work in the offseason to get ready. Young group with good senior leadership,” he noted.

“It (jamboree) helped us figure out personnel and formations. We were able to find ourselves a little thanks to the jamboree.”

The Bulldogs are coming off a 16-10-1 record after winning their third district championship in a row. The Crusaders were also district champions in Class 3 after a 19-8 season. It is also a familiar spot for the Crusaders who have played in a district championship the last four seasons including a state Final Four appearance.

Although it is a good draw for a season opener given recent history, Howard noted that it was also important to remember that the match is still in fact the first of many in 2019.

“It’s the first game of the season, there are going to be some things we do well and some things we need to work on,” the coach said. “I certainly don’t want this game to be our best game of the season. It’s a process and this is just one of the steps.”

Coach Hebenheimer also seeks to keep a simpler perspective in mind.

“They will need to keep possession of the ball and we don't want to turn the game in to the race to be competitive in the matchup,” he said of his club.

The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. and will take place at the high school.