Fresh faces lead Battle as program begins anew under Ellison
COLUMBIA — Battle High School football will look a little different when it hits the field for the first time in 2019.
The Spartans had some significant personnel shakeups this off-season with former defensive line coach Atiyyah Ellison being promoted to head coach and Harrison Keller starting at quarterback.
Both moves come after Justin Conyers — the only head coach in program history — left in April for the same job in Halsville and Jaren Lewis, the program’s starting quarterback for the last two years, graduated in May.
There will also be some new faces on defense. Junior Jamileon Kimble will now start at defensive tackle for Battle and the program is also adding R.J. Miller, a 6-foot-2 senior who moved from Bearben, Arkansas, this year. He’ll start at defensive end.
Kimble and Miller both said this year’s Battle defense is physical and flies to the ball, and Kimble added that the defense feels more organized than last year, noting that its members have “bought in” with coaches like Xzavie Jackson. The former Missouri defensive lineman is in his first year on the Battle coaching staff.
For all the newness, there will be some familiarity on offense. Steadfast linemen like Landon Ray and Sam Ennis will bookend the offensive line and the duo of Daleshaun Coleman and Darren Jordan will split carries at running back again this year. Last season, the duo totaled over 2,000 yards on the ground. They’ll likely be helped by junior Khaleel Dampier, who’s expected to split snaps with Keller at quarterback and is more of a run-oriented player. Ellison described Dampier as shifty and someone who can make people miss with his feet at last week’s jamboree.
There’s not much familiarity between Battle and its opponent, Saint Louis University High School. SLUH and Battle have only squared off once before, in 2018, where the Spartans walked away with a 53-25 road win.
The Junior Billikens are coming off a 1-9 season in which they lost nine games by a touchdown or more and were shut out in three consecutive games to cap off the season. Despite that, Ellison said he’s seen things on film that’ll need to be accounted for, including an undersized defense that flies to the ball.
“That’s intimidating when you’re watching it from an offensive perspective.” he said. “We’re gonna have to make sure we’re blocking downfield. ... That’s how you account for success.”
Miller also pointed to one key figure on the SLUH offense: running back Kellen Porter.
“Stop 21,” Miller said, noting what Battle’s defense has keyed in on all week. Porter finished last season with 948 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns for the Junior Billikens.
Between Porter, Coleman and Jordan, Kimble said the matchup will be one that’s won with the ground game.
“They’re going to be running the ball, we’re going to be running the ball,” he said. “This is going to be a run-heavy game.”
This story is a Missouri School of Journalism Collaboration.