Rock Bridge coach Van Vanatta had a plan to shut down Harrison Keller and the Battle offense that had scored 108 points in its first two games this season.
He had a plan to deal with the Spartans’ triple option offense, but it didn’t work.
Keller immediately made his presence felt in his side’s 21-14 victory against the Bruins on Friday at Rock Bridge High School when he threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Meierotto in Battle’s first drive of the game.
“We knew coming in this week that we had to make a statement in the first quarter and we really put it together,” Meierotto said. “I’m glad it went down how it did.”
The pair connected for another score in the second quarter, but it wasn’t Keller’s passing that was causing Rock Bridge so many fits on defense. The 6-foot-2-inch quarterback showed off his speed and ran for 72 yards in a first half that saw Battle open up a 19-7 lead on its hosts.
Rock Bridge had no answer to the triple option attack in the first half, and it showed during Battle’s third touchdown of the game. Keller took the snap and ran towards the left sideline, drawing in two defenders. He then pitched the ball to Gerry Marteen Jr., taking those defenders out of the play — one was literally sent hurdling over the other as they tried to adjust to the change in direction — and then shoved aside another en route to a 12-yard score.
“We have two starting quarterbacks and three starting running backs,” Battle coach Atiyyah Ellison said. “So we can look like anything because we try to get the best athletes on the field.”
The Bruins came out at halftime with a different intensity. Vanatta said that they didn’t change the system at all, but played with more belief and executed better. The Bruins mounted a comeback and were able to prevent the Spartans from scoring any more points on offense — Rock Bridge conceded a safety when running back Miles Cheatum was downed in the end zone after failing to break free from Battle’s goal-line blitz.
But still, the triple option kept opening up opportunities for Keller and his running backs. A 40-yard run by Daleshaun Coleman in the final drive of the game all but put the game to bed, and then his five-yard rush on third-and-4 in the final minute finished the job.
“We blew assignments (in the first half) and then they pounded the ball on us at the end,” Vanatta said. “The kids fought hard but we have to start fast. We’ve been lazy in practice, we’re not getting it done. It starts with me and the coaches. We’ve got to figure something out and I’m not going to sleep until we find answers.”