Hawklets clip Battle's offensive wings in frustrating loss for Spartans
You could hear it from halfway up the stands, the words echoing in frustration.
"How bad do you want it?"
Battle offensive coordinator Matt Herman yelled at his offense and, considering the circumstance, it'd be hard to assume the answer wasn't "Not hard enough."
The Spartan offense had just walked off the field fruitless for the eighth time Friday night, a snapshot of an offense performance that saw Battle (4-3) shut out 29-0 by Rockhurst (4-3) on its home turf.
"I just think (we had) some frustration and injuries," Battle coach Atiyyah Ellison said postgame.
Both frustration and injury seemed to be the buzzwords of the night for the Spartans.
Of the 48 plays Battle ran on offense, 29 of them ended with either no gain or negative yardage. The Spartans' 10 total offensive drives amounted to six 3-and-outs, three turnovers on downs and one defensive score.
In particular, senior running back Darren Jordan was quickly shut down on multiple carries up the middle and, through the air, Harrison Keller couldn't seem to find open receivers, even when he could escape a crowded pocket.
Things seemed atypical on both sides of the ball Friday as, with the Battle offense lagging, a usually porous Spartan defense showed out.
Battle stopped the Hawklets either at the line of scrimmage or behind 25 times Friday. And, as a team, the Spartans had six tackles for loss, four passes defended and three sacks. They also forced a fumble and blocked a field goal.
"We locked in," Battle senior Trevonne Hicks said of the defense. "We focused tonight. This whole week of preparation, we were working hard all week."
Ellison described the defensive performance as "awesome," but emphasized the frustration of a good performance not being rewarded.
"They played their butts off, but it's hard," he said. "I've been that guy when you have stops after stops after stops."
Rockhurst coach Tony Severino said postgame that one issue his Hawklets have had this season is pass protection, and that it reared its head at points against Battle.
"I thought our offensive line played a little better (in the second half)," Severino said. "We're still not protecting the passer well enough, but we did what we had to do."
Severino also noted that the Hawklets switched around a few starters on the line this week, and that Battle picked up on some stunts and schemes that had foiled the Rockhurst offense earlier this season.
"They did a great job," he said of the Spartans' defense.
On the injury front, the Spartans dealt with a lot of issues Friday.
Once again, sophomore Gerry Marteen, Jr. did not suit up for the Spartans. He's one of five Battle players with over 150 rushing yards this season and Friday's loss was the second consecutive week he hasn't dressed. Ellison said last week he is nursing a leg injury.
Injuries continued to be a problem for Battle during the game.
With about three minutes left in the first quarter, junior Khaleel Dampier limped off the field and — before almost anyone could blink — senior Harrison Keller was down after taking a 10-yard sack with under a minute left in the first half. Dampier took the majority of the snaps in the second half, but Keller didn't return to the field.
Ellison also noted that, at one point, three defensive lineman were all playing offensive line because of injuries.
"It was just one of those things where things just start falling off one by one by one," Ellison said.
Keller said after the game that he's been dealing with both nagging shoulder and rib injuries all season, but expects to play next week against Jefferson City.
Despite all the frustration in a scrappy loss, Hicks did make one thing clear postgame.
"We're going to bounce back," he said. "A performance like this isn't going to happen for the rest of the year."