While every other school in Columbia had a district football game last Friday, Battle was the only program in town with a bye week and a night off.
So, the boys of Battle were treated to dinner and a movie. Despite having Friday and the day prior off from school, the Spartans stuck around to keep up their same routine heading into game week.
With a bye week between Battle’s (6-3) Week 9 season finale against Hannibal and its first district game against Francis Howell North (1-8) on Friday, the Spartans are currently in their longest stretch of time without a football game since the summer.
According to head coach Atiyyah Ellison, that’s been both good and, well, not so good.
For the sake of his team’s health, he said the bye week was great.
Sophomore running back Gerry Marteen Jr. should be back to full health this week, and quarterback Harrison Keller, who’d been playing banged up the last few weeks, is almost 100% healthy according to Ellison.
Starting tackle Sam Ennis, who was injured against Rockhurst, will suit up Friday and be available if needed. Junior running back DaleShaun Coleman, who injured his pinky heading into Week 8, will be out for the third week in a row.
The Spartans also may start Friday’s matchup without some of their usual starters, Ellison said, as some players missed practice early in the week. Ellison’s policy for players who miss practice without notice is that they can’t start the following week.
“They keep trying me and think I’m not gonna do what I say and I’m gonna do it, so,” Ellison said.
Ellison said the buy-in to a culture that puts team over self has been a difficult one this season, but despite the continuing issues, he feels that the Spartans have had a great couple weeks of practice.
Looking at this week’s opponent shows that this should be a winnable matchup for the Spartans.
Francis Howell North has a lone win from Week 3 of the season against a winless Ft. Zumwalt South team.
The Knights do have notable facets of their game — they have a defense that’s averaged more than one turnover a game and a duo of quarterbacks that’ve passed for over 1,300 yards — but the offense appears fairly one-dimensional.
Of Francis Howell North’s 125 points scored this year, running back Cameron Lewis is responsible for just under half of them, with nine touchdowns and 56 total points.
Lewis and company will be met by a Battle defense that had 14 stops behind or at the line of scrimmage in the Week 9 win against Hannibal. A more pass-happy Francis Howell North offense — it has just over 1,300 yards through the air this season, as opposed to just over 600 on the ground — will be going up against a pass defense that’s been staunch the last couple of weeks.
Against Jefferson City and Hannibal, the Spartans’ opponents completed just 42% of their passes, and Battle snagged six interceptions. The Jays and Pirates combined had just three touchdowns through the air on 63 attempts.
Assuming the Spartans come out on top Friday, they’ll either face Fort Zumwalt North or Smith-Cotton.
Battle dominated Smith-Cotton in all facets of their game Sept. 6, winning 61-21 on the road. The Spartans haven’t faced the Panthers yet this season, but the No. 1 seed in Battle’s district is also the No. 9 team in the state.
The Spartans also beat the Panthers last year in the state quarterfinals 26-14.
Battle and Francis Howell North will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Battle.