Battle at Jackson Week One FNF

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Date Opponent Location Outcome Score
8 / 22 Jackson Away Loss 34 - 62
8 / 29 Holt Away Win 56 - 49
9 / 5 Rock Bridge Home Loss 11 - 25
9 / 12 Excelsior Springs Home Win 36 - 0
9 / 20 Helias Away Loss 14 - 29
9 / 26 Hickman Away Win 14 - 7
10 / 3 Lee's Summit North Home Win 37 - 7
10 / 10 Jefferson City Home Loss 20 - 38
10 / 17 Hannibal Away Win 28 - 14
10 / 24 Washington Home Win 56 - 8
10 / 31 Waynesville Away Win 21 - 17
11 / 7 Camdenton (District Championship) Away Win 22 - 14
11 / 14 Ft. Zumwalt North (Quarterfinals) Home Win 20 - 13
11 / 21 Ladue (Semifinals) Home Win 34 - 6
11 / 28 Nixa (State Championship) Win 25 - 22

It's harder to imagine a bigger challenge for a coach than starting a program from scratch, but that's exactly what Battle High School Head Coach Justin Conyers is undertaking in Columbia. The team had a very respectable first season in 2013, going 5-4 with a varsity roster that included only underclassmen.

"To open our first season, we wanted to make sure that we provided our players the opportunity to play varsity football," Coach Conyers said. "We came in on the back end of a two-year scheduling cycle, meaning we were unable to play in districts. So with nine games on the table for last season, building varsity experience was important. We established a strong run game early on and leaned on it down the stretch in close games. The 2014 season looks hopeful with all 22 starters returning."

As a freshman, quarterback Brevinn Tyler (5-10, 170) passed for 990 yards last season. He will only continue to grow and mature over the next three seasons. One of his favorite targets will be junior tight end Jerrion Nelson, who recorded nearly 300 receiving yards last year and was named to the All-District team. At wide receiver, look for Jaevon McQuitty (6-1, 185), a sophomore, and junior Jerron Key (5-10, 170) to start. They combined for over 400 yards last season.

The running attack will be led by senior running back Nash Sutherlin (5- 10, 175). The speedy tailback rushed for 1,172 yards and 13 touchdowns last season on his way to being named to the All-District team. If Sutherlin is lightning, senior Marshall Willingham (5-10, 210) will bring the thunder. The goal line threat rushed for 550 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. The pair is one of the best dual-threats in the district.

Up front, the offensive line is anchored by senior guard Jacob Biddle (5-10, 220). Biddle played quite well last year and was deservedly chosen for the All-District team. Jacob Sprouse (5-10, 255), a senior, will also start at guard. The tackle spots will be manned by junior Ivan Keel (5-11, 245) and senior Sam Thurman (5-11, 300). Both played well last year and after working hard all off-season, they should be even better in 2014. Senior Dalton Roberts (5-10, 235) will start at center.

"We will continue to rely on our running game to set the tone offensively," Conyers said. "With our freshman QB becoming a sophomore, we will look to throw the football a little more to balance our attack." Battle's spread pistol offense averaged an impressive 34.7 points per game last season.

On the other side of the ball, Battle's defense will be anchored by an experienced defensive line. Senior defensive tackle Chris Zachry (6-1, 225) had 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. Junior Brandon Hedrick (6-2, 325) will start at nose tackle after recording 30 tackles last season. Junior Jerrion Nelson (6-2, 245) will start at defensive end where he had 75 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. The defensive line will be anchored by senior end Chandler Anderson (6-2, 230), who was named First Team All- District last season after recording 52 tackles and seven sacks in 2013.

The linebacking corps will be led by Willingham, who had an impressive 120 tackles and two sacks last season on his way to being named to the All- District team. He is the kind of twoway player successful programs need. Fellow seniors AJ Jones (5-10, 225) and Mallick White (5-10, 180) will also start at linebacker. Jones had 85 tackles and five sacks last year, while White added 49 tackles of his own. Coach Conyers said Battle will switch to a 4-3 defense this year in an effort to improve against the run.

The secondary will be led by Key, who was named to the All-District team last season after recording 40 tackles and an interception. Key will start at safety, as will Tyler Vincent (6-1, 175), who had 52 tackles last season. Kole Hinton (6-0, 200) will start at cornerback after recording 50 tackles in an impressive junior season.

"Our program is excited about the opportunity to have postseason play this year," Coach Conyers said. "Gaining varsity experience in 2013 boosted our young team to want to work hard this off-season and prepare to play a large class schedule." Welcome to the party Spartans! Coach Conyers and his squad are jumping right into the thick of things in 2014 with a very challenging schedule filled with Class 6 schools and traditional Missouri powerhouses.

Pigskin's Pick: 5-4