Friday Night Fever Week 3: Battle at Helias

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JEFFERSON CITY - Three plays into the second quarter of Battle’s game against Helias Catholic, the Spartans lost the ball on a fumble recovered by the Crusaders’ Jacob Watson. 

Battle was down just one touchdown then, 13-6, after quarterback Khaleel Dampier scored on a 27-yard run in the opening drive. But it was already the Spartans’ second turnover of the game, and they needed the ball back to establish an offensive rhythm. 

Rasool Taylor got the ball back on the very next play for Battle, picking off Helias quarterback Jacob Weaver at the Spartans’ 39-yard line. With the ball back in the hands of Dampier, he lofted a pass of his own only to be intercepted by Alex Clement. 

Helias would hold onto the ball following the third turnover in as many plays. Two plays later, Weaver connected with Cole Stumpe on a 30-yard touchdown pass to extend the Crusaders’ lead. 

Friday’s game was back and forth to start, but Battle (2-1, 1-1 CMAC) ultimately lost 41-19 against Helias Catholic (3-0, 2-0 CMAC).

A number of mistakes — like turnovers and penalties — and trouble on the Spartan defense aided the Crusaders. 

"You can’t be a rollercoaster team if you’re going to go win anything meaningful," Battle coach Atiyyah Ellison said. "You gotta come and prepare every single time. And I just felt like it’s a focus issue maybe. We got down. We haven’t been down. I don’t feel like we responded well to that. Gave them the ball a couple more times. A good team is gonna make you pay for that, which they did." 

Most of the action came in the second quarter, when Helias scored 28 of its points on pairs each of rushing and passing touchdowns. 

Battle was the first to get on the board, scoring on a 27-yard run by Dampier, but the lead didn't last long. Spartans' running back Gerry Marteen Jr. said the team's lack of energy was apparent in the second quarter. 

"[Energy] wasn’t as high as it was first quarter," he said. "I think that’s something that we can work on as a team and get better at.” 

Dampier added one touchdown in the second quarter on a 22-yard run to try to give Battle some offensive momentum, but that would end up being its last touchdown of the game. 

“He’s a good running quarterback," Ellison said of Dampier. "We have to be able to pass the ball, as well. He’s a good quarterback, he can do it all. I just felt like tonight, for whatever reason, we kind of let mistakes compound. And Helias is a good team, so you know, we didn’t get the result we wanted.” 

Neither team found an offensive rhythm in the second half. Both came within striking distance in consecutive drives between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters, but no points were scored. 

Few adjustments were made at the half, Ellison said, alluding that the game's issues sprang more from a lack of unity and other issues. Ellison, in just his second year as head coach, emphasized that he and his team are still getting to know each other. 

"The T in Spartans for us means 'together,' and that’s all I said to them over and over at halftime," Ellison said. "I just feel like we still don’t have everybody bought in to the team aspect and that no matter what that we say at the end, we have to really mean what we’re saying. And I feel like, you know, it’s a growing process." 

Battle allowed Helias to run for 300 yards and pass for just under 100. In contrast, the Spartans — who had dominant rushing performances in weeks one and two — were held to less than 200 yards on the ground.

While Marteen said the Crusaders were just a "good, physical team," Ellison broke it down into more specifics.  

“At the end of the day, the bigs gotta block, and I felt like we didn’t do a good job blocking," he said. "And up front on defense, we didn’t do a good job tackling. We were down a couple guys and we lost a couple guys during the game but who doesn’t? The next person’s gotta be ready to play.” 

Ellison also said the secondary needed to focus more on doing their own jobs, not those of their teammates, because everybody has their place in the defense — "If your job is to cover, then cover,” he said.

So, what lesson does Ellison hopes his team took away from their first loss of the season? 

"Just keep playing," he said. "If it’s time on the clock, just keep playing.”

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