Battle gets chance to build on recent defensive successes Friday

2 months 7 hours 47 minutes ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 11:50:46 PM CDT September 19, 2019 in Friday Night Fever
By: Adam Cole, Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA — The usually high-flying Spartan offense had a rather quiet night last week.

Battle’s Week 3 win was its lowest-scoring affair of the season, a 21-14 victory over Rock Bridge. Those in attendance saw the lowest point total in a game Battle’s participated in since the Spartans’ 17-14 loss to Jefferson City last October.

Battle’s (2-1) offensive explosion predominately comes from finding the end zone (the Spartans had 12 offensive touchdowns coming into the game), but the Bruins were able to limit Battle’s production in the first half, and shut down the offense completely in the second half.

Despite a lack of scoring, coach Atiyyah Ellison didn’t see much cause for concern moving forward.

“Their defense was decent and played well, but we did enough to win,” Ellison said. “We came out and moved the ball. Still, we just didn’t get it in the end zone.”

To say Battle moved the ball last week is debatably an understatement, as — despite it being a low-scoring affair — the Spartans set a new single-game season high in total yardage.

The offense gained 395 total yards, mainly with the legs of DaleShaun Coleman. The junior totaled 149 yards on the ground, a season-high. It was another testament to the “dry erase” feel of the Spartan offense this year, which, as Ellison has said, has two starting quarterbacks and three running backs.

The Spartans have dominated on the ground through three games, with five players combining for 741 rushing yards. However, Battle may be limited in its options this week, as senior Darren Jordan is still recovering from a foot injury.

Jordan injured his ankle the week of Battle’s 61-21 win over Smith-Cotton and didn’t suit up for Week 2. The senior was back in uniform last week, but only had one carry before coming off the field for the night.

Ellison said Jordan will dress this week, and he said sophomore Gerry Marteen Jr. — who left last week’s game early in the second half with cramps — is expected to play. Marteen is tied for the team lead in rushing attempts through three games.

While the offense has been the crown jewel of Battle’s program so far this year, the defense has stepped up, in more ways than one, to make its impact felt.

In Week 2, Battle forced four turnovers, including a strip sack which turned into a fumble recovery for a touchdown. However, coming into Week 3, the Spartans were averaging 36.5 points allowed per game.

Allowing opponents to score isn’t something new for this program. In 2018, Battle averaged 30.7 points allowed per game. But Battle hunkered down against Rock Bridge — an opponent who beat the Spartans 48-28 last season — and allowed just 14 points, as well as forced one turnover, in Week 3.

“The defense definitely stepped up and played well,” Ellison said. “We’ve been getting to the quarterback.”

A former defensive lineman, Ellison said pressuring the quarterback is where it all starts for his defense.

“If you can push the quarterback off the spot, it’s going to help the rest of the defense, so our focus is up front,” he said.

Coming off two very different, but very effective, defensive performances the last two weeks, Battle’s defensive play Friday may be one of the biggest storylines of the matchup.

This week’s opponent – the Harrisonville Wildcats – come into the matchup 0-3 on the season. A season ago, the Spartans hung 87 points on Harrisonville, a school record.

Despite a debatably more dynamic offense this season, and another chance to set a program record in points, Ellison’s less concerned with the score coming out of this week and more concerned with securing a win.

“If it’s winning by 1 or 80 points, we’re just trying to get after it,” Ellison said.

Battle and Harrisonville kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Battle High School.

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