Midway through the third quarter, Battle {span}was set to receive a punt from Hannibal after a failed Pirates drive.

The Spartans were up 14-8 after two touchdowns by junior running back Gerry Marteen Jr. Another scoring play would give Battle a little more room to breathe against Hannibal’s stifling defense.

Hannibal’s punter made contact with the ball, and then the ball made contact with the hands of Battle’s defenders, rolling backward down the field toward the end zone.

Spartans sophomore Rickie Dunn was the one to pounce on the ball. While he was brought down immediately, the recovery gave Battle’s offense perfect field position to grab another score, and that’s what it did. Quarterback Khaleel Dampier scored on the first play of the drive, rushing 11 yards into the end zone to put the Spartans up 20-8.

Battle went on to beat Hannibal 27-14 in its final regular-season game. It was the fifth straight win for the Spartans (6-1) over the Pirates (6-2) and the seventh consecutive year the two teams have met in their regular-season finale.

“Definitely fought through some adversity early, and offense kept pounding, pounding, pounding,” Battle coach Atiyyah Ellison said. “Defense kept getting the stops and big plays. It was a good game.”

The game started out slow on offense for both teams, with neither scoring until a few minutes were left in the first half. Marteen was the first to punch one in, rushing 61 yards to put the Spartans on the board first.

But just 38 seconds later, Hannibal was on the board as well and had one-upped Battle’s successful point-after attempt with a 2-point conversion to lead 8-7 going into halftime.

On Thursday, Ellison said he’d be satisfied if his team came out with just one point more than Hannibal. While the Spartans didn’t quite meet their scoring average, they did beat the 17 points the Pirates defense allowed on average before Friday night.

The mental mistakes Battle has been attempting to fix all season long materialized against Hannibal in the form of false starts. The Spartans had five on offense and one offsides penalty on defense, along with block in the back and holding calls.

“It’s just up to the kids,” Ellison said. “It’s up to them to fix their mistakes and not try to do things beyond what the play calls. Just playing inside the play, between the whistles. There’s no cure at all. Everybody’s got to focus on their job each play and do their job.”

Dampier would have scored his third touchdown of the night if it hadn’t been for that holding penalty. Battle closed the game on offense, running five plays before Dampier got through for a 24-yard touchdown only for it to be called back. The Spartans then decided to finish out the game by taking a knee.

Only one turnover occurred in the game. Hannibal let the ball go on a fumble in the second quarter when the score was still 0-0, but Battle wasn’t able to capitalize and went four-and-out.

Both teams stuck largely to their ground games, with neither having much success in the air. Hannibal’s regular starting quarterback, Courtland Watson, missed his second straight game because of a foot injury, leaving running back Aneyas Williams to take his place.

Williams did throw for one 19-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, Hannibal’s second and final scoring play of the night.

Battle finished with more than 400 rushing yards, one of its highest totals of the season, despite a lower scoring game. Ellison didn’t give the game a ranking out of how many quarters he felt the team played, but he did seem to have a positive outlook on overall performance.

{p class=”p1”}“I think this is a building block going into the first week of districts,” Ellison said.

District tournament brackets have not yet been finalized, but Battle, No. 2 in Class 5 District 4, will most likely play No. 3 Rolla (4-3) in a semifinal game after a bye. The Bulldogs beat Camdenton 28-10 on Friday.

  • Sports reporter, fall 2020 Studying print & digital sports journalism Reach me at emily.leiker15@gmail.com, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

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