Battle looking to move forward against Hickman after a long week
COLUMBIA - It was a rough week for Battle High School.
The Spartans (3-2) went into Jackson, Missouri, and fell to Jackson High School 56-12. The defeat was swift, as Battle went into the locker room at halftime down 42-6.
While Battle ran into significant trouble on the field, trouble was also brewing off it.
After the game, it was reported that Battle players and cheerleaders were subjected to racist slurs, taunts and harassment from Jackson fans and players. The Spartans also came back to a trashed locker room after the loss.
Jackson R-2 School District Superintendent John Link has denied the reports of fans harassing any Battle athletes and claims the Spartans trashed their own locker room at halftime based on security camera footage outside the visiting team’s locker room.
Both Jackson and Columbia Public Schools are investigating the situation, and the Missourian has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Jackson to see the footage.
In the aftermath of arguably Battle’s hardest loss of the season, the Spartans look to have a lighter matchup this week both on and off the field. The Hickman Kewpies will travel crosstown to play Battle for its Homecoming game.
Battle coach Atiyyah Ellison said Tuesday, distractions or not, his team needed to buckle down in preparation for this week’s game.
After last week’s loss, both Ellison and quarterback Harrison Keller were quick to mention that the week of preparation leading up to the loss had felt lackadaisical.
“I think a bigger issue than how we actually played tonight was our week of preparation,” Keller said after the loss. “This week we were not nearly as focused as we had been in the past, like the Rock Bridge week and weeks that we’ve played really well.”
Keller, who had been on a roll over the last couple of games, looked completely shut down against Jackson. The senior was done for the day at halftime, with 62 total yards, one rushing touchdown and an interception.
Jackson went fairly quiet into the night — it only scored 14 points in the second half — and it allowed some bright spots in Battle’s offensive performance.
Those in attendance saw Khaleel Dampier re-take the reins of the offense in a solid performance. Despite throwing an interception, the junior had 137 total yards in what was his first significant chunk of playing time since Week 3 against Smith-Cotton.
Another key player for Battle was senior running back Darren Jordan. He finished the night in southeast Missouri with 99 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
“He’s a great player, man,” Ellison said of Jordan. “We’ve been missing him for a couple weeks, so I hope everything’s good and he can show what he can do.”
Jordan, who has been nursing a right ankle injury, only saw one snap in the three games prior.
Dampier, Jordan and the rest of the Spartans should have a much easier week on the field. Instead of a Top-10 Class 5 matchup, Hickman comes in with a 2-3 record after falling 39-8 last week to a then-winless Rock Bridge team.
The Kewpies have seemed to win and lose only with emphasis this season. Their closest game of the year was a 14-7 Week 1 win over Pattonville. Since then, they’ve scored no more than eight points in any of their losses, and their Week 4 win over Smith-Cotton was a 34-point blowout.
Hickman’s scattered success could mean a lot of different things for Battle, but considering the Kewpies' wins are over two opponents with a combined 1-9 record, it spells a chance to rebound for the Spartans.
It’s likely the offense gets back to top form regardless of who’s under center and it’s a chance for the Battle defense to surprise. Ellison said his players still have a lot of developing to do as a team.
“It’s there at times, but you know, we need it every Friday,” Ellison said. “It starts in practice. And maybe you don’t trust the guy next to you because you know he hasn’t been going full speed all week, so if it’s something like that."
“I need our team leaders to be speaking up and changing the culture,” Ellison added. “I’m a little frustrated.”
Battle and Hickman will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Battle.