Battle lets SLUH slip by in late win

9 months 5 days 17 hours ago Saturday, August 31 2019 Aug 31, 2019 Saturday, August 31, 2019 2:12:00 AM CDT August 31, 2019 in Friday Night Fever
By: Adam Cole, Columbia Missourian
Battle High School football coach Xzavie Jackson talks to his players on Friday, August 30, 2019 at Battle. Both teams called time-outs during the last five minutes of the game. Amanda Lee/Missourian

COLUMBIA - Things felt hopeless as soon as they felt hopeful for the Battle Spartans Friday night.

After a first half that seemed to secure the game for Battle's opponent, Saint Louis University High School, the Spartans came back quick and fast with two touchdowns in the opening minutes of the second half. However, Battle could only exchange blows with the Junior Billikens down to the wire, ultimately losing to SLUH, 52-47.

"It was a cat-and-mouse game to be honest with you," SLUH head coach Mike Jones said after the game.

Although the game was still in reach at the half, Battle's play lacked, with mental mistakes that included nine penalties and two safeties.

"The attitude was at a lull," Battle head coach Atiyyah Ellison said.

The lack of urgency took an immediate shift in the second half of play, as quarterback Harrison Keller kept it on a read option and cut through the SLUH defense for a 57-yard touchdown run.

After Battle forced a SLUH punt, running back Darren Jordan only needed one play to get Battle back into the end zone, this time with a 62-yard run. Suddenly a 9-point halftime deficient was a 31-24 Battle lead. Things looked up.

The Spartans had their moments – two long drives resulting in touchdowns, a Quentarius Vaughn interception, and a 100%  conversion rate on two-point conversions to name a few – but they couldn't escape the blunders.

Early in the fourth quarter, SLUH cornerback Issac Thompson intercepted Keller and shut down a huge opportunity for Battle to get another score and take the lead in a then-tied ball game. Three safeties also didn't help the Spartans.

"It's almost impossible to win giving up three safeties," Ellison said postgame.

SLUH gained six points off of those safeties Friday night, padding what went on to be a 5 point win. 

"We had a lot of opportunities," Ellison said. "We didn't get a stop where we needed to and then we'd do something silly. It's kind of just growing pains."

One thing Ellison emphasized was defensive work. SLUH running back Kellen Porter finished the night with 133 yards on the ground and five touchdowns. He also averaged just over six yards a carry.

"If we can't tackle, it's hard to win," he said. "That's a good back we played, but he ain't that good. We had him dead to rights a couple times and we just didn't make the tackle." 

Despite mental blunders and simple mistakes, Ellison didn't seemed discouraged by his team's performance.

"We fought the whole game and that's huge," he said. "I'm excited, I'm proud of our guys and it's small fixes to be honest."

Battle plays Smith Cotton at 7 p.m. Friday in Sedalia. 

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