Columbia high schools welcome Battle to football scene

Saturday, August 24, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:25 a.m. CDT, Sunday, August 25, 2013
Students of Battle, Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools cheer their football teams Friday at a scrimmage at Battle High School. The jamboree brought together the community to support a new era in Columbia high school football.

COLUMBIA — The games were over, and the 14 boxes full of T-shirts were now only four.

At the start of Friday night's festivities, 1,000 T-shirts were on sale outside of Battle High School's football field — souvenirs that announced the inaugural "Battle@Battle." Helmets of Columbia's high school football programs were also displayed on them: Hickman (Est. 1927), Rock Bridge (Est. 1973) and, above the two, Battle (Est. 2013).

Beneath the helmets, a banner read, "A New Tradition of Excellence Begins."

The night marked the completion of Battle's first-ever week of school. It also marked the start of an extended crosstown rivalry. About 3,500 people came to the jamboree.

"A lot of people say this was a glorified scrimmage, but this was on our calendar for sure," Battle coach Justin Conyers said. "This was a chance for us to set the tone for the season and come out and show the community what we’re about."

The days leading up to the event were of  "a lot of nerves," Conyers said.

Conyers is now in charge of a program in front of the community he grew up in. On Friday, he found himself across the field from Hickman High School, the team he played for, and Rock Bridge High School, the one he began coaching nine years ago.

"(There's) a little nerves when you're around your colleagues," Conyers said. "You wanna come out and you wanna show well. You know, you want your guys to do the right things."

It was 7:34 p.m. when starting freshman quarterback Brevinn Tyler found Jerrion Nelson in the end zone against Rock Bridge for Battle's first touchdown against live competition. The 48 lights surrounding the field then quickly flared to life.

With each squad allowed 18 plays of offense split between the first- and second-team units starting at the 40-yard line, the Spartans matched the Bruins with two scores to open the night. Battle finished by falling to three touchdowns to one against the Kewpies, who also topped Rock Bridge.

The field later morphed into a greeting ground. The three teams clustered together like the fans in the stands wearing green, purple or blue.

On the field stood Conyers and the Bruins' head coach, A.J. Ofodile, who knew Conyers when the freshman started playing at Hickman. Conyers went on to join Ofodile's staff when he was 23.

"I couldn't really tell you how happy I am for him to have this situation," Ofodile said before looking around the stadium. "What an opportunity to start a program. I never dreamed he’d have all this to go with it. Unbelievable."

Near Conyers and Ofodile stood Spartans junior linebacker Marshall Willingham and Rock Bridge quarterback Logan Twehous. The two have been friends since toddlers and played Little League baseball and peewee football together.

"We got to grow up together pretty much. With a bunch of guys on Rock Bridge, too," Twehous said.

"We all get along great," he added. "I'm sure tonight we’ll all see each other again."

Battle High School's walls were bare, other than the arrows directing students to halls "F, G, H and J" and the fliers informing them of rising sports teams, such as wrestling. "Don't forget," the flier read. "It's always fun to beat Bruins and Kewpies!"

Willingham stood outside the locker room.

"We basically consider ourselves as the little brothers," he said of the neighboring Class 6 powers. "It feels good to know we can go out there and give every punch that they can give us."

Since practice began in June, Willingham looked forward to Aug. 23. Not necessarily for the chance to triumph.

"We just want to feel like we’re just as noticeable as Hickman and Rock Bridge," Willingham said.



Battle High freshman Daveon Adams talks with fellow freshman football teammates Hunter Smith and Cole Nettles at the jamboree game hosted by Battle High School on Friday. The boys are optimistic of getting more playing time now that they are on a new team.


Battle High receiver Trey Smith catches a pass over a Rock Bridge defender during a scrimmage game at Battle High School on Friday.


Sophomores, from left, Kenlyn Shettlesworth, Reagan deLima, Megan Potter and Gabrielle Jones gather to watch their teams play together in the Battle at Battle scrimmage on Friday. Shettlesworth and deLima both are Hickman students, Potter is from Battle, and Jones is a Rock Bridge student. They maintain their friendship after being separated into different high schools.


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