In first year of playoff eligibility, Battle football looks to grow

Thursday, August 28, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:17 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 29, 2014

COLUMBIA — It may only be the Battle High School Spartan football program's second year, but head coach Justin Conyers is not going to use that as an excuse.

In Battle's inaugural year, the Spartans were not eligible for the playoffs, as the team started in the middle of the Missouri State High School Activities Association's two-year redistricting cycle. The team used that time to build the program's foundation as well as to learn from its mistakes.

Read more about this week's High School Lowdown previews: Hickman, Rock Bridge and Fr. Tolton

Now that the Spartans are playoff eligible, Conyers wants his players and coaches to think they can make a playoff run, despite the program's young age.

"Why not us? Why can't we make a playoff run?" Conyers said. "Our kids know they can't go in and make critical mistakes on special teams or with turnovers."

Conyers said the Spartans gave up too many points off turnovers last week. The Spartans gave up three fumbles in the 62-34 loss to Jackson High School and allowed one kick return fora touchdown.

The team operates more like a traditional football team now, Conyers said. Conyers added that he's more comfortable delegating responsibilities to assistants and the film sessions and meetings are part of the norm now.

For the Spartans, the coach hopes the time spent together turns into on-field success.

"We preach family here, we talk about it every day," Conyers said. "When I started I knew four of 101 players, now I know each of their first and last names, and I can be more open and comfortable with them."

The coach said that his players feel as if they have more ownership of their high school now, and they don't feel like the new school anymore.

"I always tell my seniors that 10 years from now they will come back and see what they started," Conyers said. "You see the pride in their school."

Battle will take on Holt High School at 7 p.m. Friday at Holt.

Supervising editor is Raymond Howze.

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