Battle football caps dream run with a state title
ST. LOUIS - One year ago, the Battle Spartans finished up their first varsity football season after losing to Troy Buchanan in districts. Now, the Spartans have a state football championship.
In their first season with playoff eligibility, the Spartans defeated the Nixa Eagles, 25-22, to win the Class 5 State Football Championship on Friday.
After a 5-4 inaugural season, the community didn't have large expectations for the team, and the 2014 campaign didn't start exactly how someone would expect for a team which would eventually host a state title. The Spartans began their season with a 28-point loss to the Jackson Indians. After the loss, the team lost three of its next seven games as well, the last of those coming against Jefferson City, and the Spartans stood at 4-4.
After the loss to the Jays, the Spartans went on a run.
Battle finished up its regular season with a win over Hannibal and once again finished with a 5-4 regular season record.
Then came the state playoffs. The Spartans were the third seeded team in the fourth district, matched up with powerhouse Camdenton, who had won four straight district championships.
The Spartans won their first two games, including a tough win over Waynesville, to set up a match-up with Camdenton.
Battle fought all game with the Lakers, and were able to come out with a hard-earned victory.
For head coach Justin Conyers and the Spartans, this game really made them believe.
"Camdenton has done a great job over the past few years. They've won it the last four. It's really a storied program down there and we were very fortunate to be able to go down there and play them for the title," he said. "I think that really set the tone and and you know it came through and our kids truly started to believe that we were good, that we deserved to be where we were, after that game."
Battle then then defeated Fort Zumwalt North and LaDue at home to move on to the state championship against Nixa.
"That's just a huge momentum shift for us to be back home in our home locker room and get those guys coming to our place and playing," Conyers said.
Against the Eagles, it was a back-and-forth battle the entire game, and going into the half, the Spartans trailed Nixa 14-7 after the end of the first half.
In the second half, Battle came out inspired, and an important field goal by kicker Kahleb Adams and a key pick-six by linebacker Darion Hall gave the Spartans new life and an 18-14 lead in the 3rd quarter.
After trading touchdowns in the 4th quarter, Battle had the ball with 4:15 left in the game. Battle almost put the game away after a Brevinn Tyler rushing touchdown was called back due to a penalty. A couple of plays later, the Spartans officially sealed the game after a run by Jerion Nelson was just barely converted by mere inches on 4th and two with 1:39 left in the game.
"At that time, we get in our big package we call Red and you put the ball in number eight's hands and say 'Hey kid I need two yards,' and with the personnel that's in there including Darion, we've got to be able to get two. When we started that whole Wildcat package, our whole mantra was 'You gotta get two yards,' and it's worked really well for us," Conyers said.
With the win, the Spartans are the first Columbia football team to win a state championship since Hickman won in 2004, and Conyers says he just wants this to allow people to know Battle's name going forward.
"I'm from the community, so I can be places, and people see a Battle shirt, and they live in Columbia and they don't even know where Battle High School is," Conyers said. "That is a big thing that we've talked about all year long is, we want people to know who we are, so I think coming down here, making the run we've had this year, winning the state championship, people are actually going to know where Battle High School is from now on."