Undefeated Battle football dedicates season to one it lost
COLUMBIA — The Battle Spartans have been flawless on the field winning every single game this season including a 40-33 victory over the rival Jefferson City Jays.
Despite all the wins, it's hard not to recognize one major loss.
"I couldn't hold back the tears, and not that I needed to hold them back, but I was trying to stay strong for all these guys," Battle Head Coach Justin Conyers said.
Assistant Coach Jon Dinter battled brain cancer since 2010. This past February, the tumor returned, and it was deemed inopporable just a month ago. He passed away in late September at the age of 32 around family and friends.
"I received a phone call from my wife in tears telling me that he had passed. It was very humbling and very difficult to swallow. "It was almost surreal, because you keep expecting him to come to practice and walk out, and he's not here," Conyers said.
Battle Wide Receiver Jaevon McQuitty said, "I mean I was kind of sad when I heard he was sick, but like when he passed, I wasn't sad. I was just really angry. He was a good man, and you know he was dealt some bad cards, but he just did his best, and it kind of made me mad that out of all people it was him."
"It kind of broke my heart," Running Back Brennen DeMarco said. "I didn't expect it to happen so soon."
Players said Dinter was a family man and always put those he cared about before himself. On the football field, he was a man of a few words. However, McQuitty and others said he meant it.
Running Back Brennen DeMarco said, "I came off, and I was mad I didn't make the play, and coach Dinter came up to me and he patted me on my back and goes you know what you need to do and I'm like yeah I know."
Star Quarterback Brevinn Tyler agreed noting Dinter's knack for knowing exactly what to say and when to say it.
"Since 8th grade...since I was their age, every fall he's been there. It's just sad knowing that's not going to happen again, and that's not going to be the same," Tyler said.
"He never missed a practice. He never missed a beat. He loved to be out here, and that's one of the things that made him so special," Conyers said.
The community outreach for the Dinter family has come from all over. The community created a GoFundMe for Dinter's family that raised almost 32-thousand dollars toward its goal. The team and family members will also host a benefit Oct. 9 to raise money and celebrate the life of Jon Dinter.
On the field, Battle had a game to play the week of Dinter's death, and Conyers remembered just how difficult it was to take the field.
"My energy was down. I couldn't focus real well, so how can you expect you know 14-18 year-old men to focus," Conyers said.
The players said keeping emotions in check was a tough task.
Tyler said, "I think just keeping things in check and controlling things we can control. We just had to focus on winning the game."
The team stayed focused as Tyler connected with McQuitty for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. The team went on to win against Hickman on the same field the Kewpies returned to after losing a coach of their own, Arnel Monroe, to remain perfect.
"We've got something bigger than ourselves to play for right now," Conyers said.
The team returned home for the first home game against Truman since Dinter's passing. They too would not be enough to stop the Spartans as Battle won a thriller in overtime.
Tyler said "We just have to focus on winning. That's all we can do."
Conyers said, "He never let cancer define who he was, and I think that's probably the biggest thing I learned from his is you know even though the cards he was dealt, a lot of people could have laid down, but he chose to fight."
The team will also where "JD" helmet stickers and grey throughout the year, which is the color for those battling brain cancer, for the rest of the season.
Fight, inspiration, perseverance, funny memories, whatever you want to call it, it works. Battle beat rival Jefferson City and still remains undefeated in its search for a state championship for Dinter.
Photos courtesy of family and friends of the Dinters and Battle High School