Battle beats Bruins for first time in two years
COLUMBIA - The moment was so tense that Battle players, coaches and fans let out what felt like a collective scream of relief.
In the midst of pressure, Rock Bridge quarterback Grant Hajicek stepped up and, while getting hit, heaved a deep pass to wideout Brett Mooney in the right corner of the end zone.
The ball bounced off the turf, and the incomplete pass marked a turnover on downs.
With 2:15 left in the game, all the Spartans had to do was run out the clock to secure the win. Two first downs later, Battle (2-1) walked off the field of its crosstown rival (0-3) winners.
The excitement was so real that, as players jogged to the stands to high-five the student section, head coach Atiyyah Ellison led his coaching staff over to do the same.
"Man, that was fun," Ellison said. "We have gotten the short end of this game a couple years in a row, so getting the victory against Rock Bridge, a crosstown rival, is a big deal for them."
Coming into the night, the all-time series between the Bruins and Spartans was 3-2, in favor of the Bruins, and Battle hadn't won a matchup with Rock Bridge since 2016.
"We had to make a statement," junior DaleShaun Coleman said postgame. "They've got great players, (Division One) players, but we wanted to make a statement that we don't have to have Division One players. We've got the heart to beat the teams we need to beat."
Coleman played a crucial role on both sides of the ball for Battle on Friday night. The running back finished with 149 yards rushing on 16 carries and 32 receiving yards. He also came up with a crucial fumble recovery on the second to last drive of the first half, which stopped an imminent Rock Bridge touchdown.
Coleman, who had just 81 total yards of offense through the first two weeks, said the rivalry with Rock Bridge made this game feel a bit different.
"This week I knew we had to win this game," Coleman said. "This is a rivalry, and I knew our team needed this win, so we had to work hard to get it."
Coleman's production ultimately came when Battle needed it the most. 130 of his 149 yards came in the second half.
The Battle defense — although much less explosive than its four turnover performance against Smith-Cotton last week — seemed to win the Spartans the game on Friday.
Battle only allowed two scores on Rock Bridge's nine offensive drives and gave up 12 first downs the entire game. The Bruins were also forced into five 3-and-outs, with the three coming on their first three drives.
"If you are still on the field, you've got a chance to stop them," Ellison said.
Although he didn't specify the number's significance, Ellison said postgame he told the defense they needed 14 stops.
"I don't know if we got 14, but we got close, so I'm happy," Ellison said.
The Bruins went into the locker room at halftime down 19-7 after giving up 241 yards of total offense. The half saw Battle total 8 first downs, as well as find its only two touchdowns of the game. However, the second half was a different story, as Rock Bridge outscored the Spartans 7-2.
“We didn’t come out to play early," Rock Bridge head coach Van Vanatta said.
"We made no adjustments (at halftime), we just told them to play, to do what they were supposed to do, and then they did it," Vanatta said. "Offensively, we moved the ball and got some things going."
While Battle finds itself with a winning record heading into the thick of the season, Rock Bridge now sits at 0-3, coming off a 2018 which finished 9-3.
At a time when the program needs some answers, it's evident the team is hungry to figure it out and get a game in the win column.
Battle will be back at home next week for a matchup with 0-3 Harrisonville. Rock Bridge will look to bounce back on the road against 2-1 Lee's Summit West.