Battle's O-Line looks ahead to Hannibal

Thursday, September 5, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:56 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 26, 2013
The Battle High School Spartans offensive line reviews plays during practice Wednesday at Battle High. Coach Justin Conyers described the offensive line as crucial to Battle High's 56-6 win against Kansas City's East High School.

COLUMBIA — Battle High School's offensive line loves pancakes, as in pancake blocks.

Last week in their win against Kansas City East, the Spartans' front five were taking defenders 10 and 12 yards down field and putting them on their backs, coach Justin Conyers said.

Conyers expects his offensive linemen to be "six-second competitors" up front as they were against East when they led the Spartans to 415 total yards, including 368 rushing yards. The O-line play was impeccable: They did not allow a single hurry, sack or tackle for a loss.

Left tackle Samuel Thurman (junior), left guard Jacob Biddle (junior), center Dalton Roberts (junior), and right tackle Ivan Keel (sophomore) are all former Hickman students. Their new teammate, right guard Jacob Sprouse (junior), is the lone Rock Bridge transfer.

Even though they pick on Sprouse for being a former Bruin, Roberts described the O-line as "family." And this family likes to pancake defenders when they run block.

"Pancakes: that's the best part about O-line right there," Biddle said.

"It feels pretty nice," Keel said. "When you get a pancake and you look up and see your running back down field, you know you've done your job."

To help those running backs get down field, the O-line has adopted the motto of "six-second jerks." A "six-second jerk" is a lineman who furiously blocks with all his might, trying his utmost to put a defender on his back.

"You gotta come hard and fast off the ball, you gotta communicate, and you gotta have good feet," Thurman said, defining what it means to be a "six-second jerk."

"And then you gotta finish off, and then you've done your job — that's that," Thurman added.

"And after that you just gotta get back up and do it again. That's what it means to be O-line," Sprouse said.

Keel, one of the most soft-spoken of the lineman, added one more detail.

"After you're done being a 'six-second jerk,' the most intimidating part is ... you help your opponent up, and that's the biggest thing." 

The boys said that helping defenders up after a pancake is intimidating because it displays an unexpected show of sportsmanship. You can topple a guy, sit on his chest for a couple of seconds, then help him to his feet, all so you can do it to him again on the next play, they said.

The boys' pancake-ing may intimidate opponents, even if Sprouse's juggling does not.

Sprouse likes to juggle footballs on the sidelines when he has down time. He's even juggled apples in the past. He says he can take a bite of one while juggling. He once he suffered a black eye while doing so. He's never had a black eye on the football field.

Biddle's teammates call him "crazy," and Biddle says it's because he had three concussions last year. Sprouse said that Biddle is the hardest-hitting guy on the O-line.

"Even if he's hitting the wrong guy, he's hitting him hard," Sprouse said.

Roberts' is playing high school football for the first time. He used to play soccer as a goalie and, occasionally, a striker.

According to his teammates, Thurman is the comedian on the line and likes to tell dirty jokes.

And Keel said that football turned his life around. He used to get in trouble when he was in elementary school, he said. But football gave him a reason to improve his grades and gave him something to focus on.

The Spartans' O-line will have to focus on protecting their freshman quarterback this week against Hannibal. As the boys said, they have to step up a little more to protect the underclassman. 

"This is his first year playing with big kids," Biddle said.

"It kinda gives us that older brother protection kinda thing," Roberts said.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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