It was third-and-long in Spartan territory, and all Harrison Keller could think of was repeating history.
Before leading the Battle offense in its final drive of Friday’s game, the senior quarterback was reminiscing on last year’s junior varsity game against Jefferson City, where a 5-yard run was all Keller needed to ice a win.
“I pulled the ball last year and scored a 60 yard touchdown,” Keller said. “So I was thinking about that this year, knowing I had a chance to do that again.”
This time, Keller needed seven yards, but the results were essentially the same.
After making one cut to his left, Keller was “in the exact same situation as last year,” sprinting into green grass on his way to a 61-yard touchdown run.
It cemented Friday’s win — making the score 48-35 in favor of the Spartans — as Battle (5-3) went on to beat Jefferson City 54-35, marking the program’s first win over the Jays in three years.
While the game saw Battle’s third-highest point total of the season, the Spartans were quiet in the first two quarters of play.
The Spartans went into the locker room at halftime with the score tied at 14 and weren’t able to generate much offensively. In particular, their running game was stagnant in the absence of starting tackles Landon Ray and Sam Ennis, as both were battling injuries.
The Spartans’ ground game had 25 rush attempts in the first half. Eight of their attempts went for zero or fewer yards and 11 of their attempts went for less than 10.
Despite the stagnant play, Battle coach Atiyyah Ellison didn’t have much to say at halftime.
“I just said ‘(It’s) 0-0. It’s up to you how you want to leave,’” Ellison said. “And they went to work.”
As a unit, Battle’s offense produced 551 total yards of offense, with 338 yards and six of the team’s eight scores coming in the second half.
In particular, Darren Jordan went off. The senior running back totaled 233 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
“It feels pretty good,” Jordan said of the high-scoring performance. “I feel like it all starts with the offensive line. They opened things up and that’s why we scored 54 points.”
Jordan’s performance not only set a new bar for him this season, but opened things up for the offense as well.
“(Darren) was a big part of everything we could’ve done tonight,” Keller said. “All you have to do is show a little ball fake and they’re gonna bite on it with the way he was playing.”
While Jordan only had one catch for -1 yards Friday, his performance affected the Battle passing game. Once Jordan hit his stride, the Jays defense was easily baited into play action and ball fakes, allowing Keller to finish the night 11 of 24 through the air with 203 yards.
The Battle defense also made its presence known for the second week in a row, as a strip from Jasper Lindsey and an interception from Kendrick Harris were just two of five crucial turnovers for the Spartans.
Harris, Quentarius Vaughn, William Henderson and Trevonne Hicks all came up with interceptions Friday. Henderson said the scores were crucial in giving the Spartans mental momentum through the game.
Following last week’s loss to Rockhurst, the Spartans have strung together two impressive performances on the defensive side of the ball, and Harris said it’s just the result of things finally breaking through for the unit.
“Nothing’s switched,” he said. “We’ve been tight from the beginning of the season.
“We’ve felt like the reporters and all the news types, they had us wrong, saying we’re an opportunistic defense. ... We’re a team that makes plays and we’re starting to show that now.”
Keller also had a new x-factor through the air Friday: Tavian Miller.
The senior had arguably his biggest game this season as well, finishing with 195 all-purpose yards and his first rushing touchdown of the season. On plays where Miller got the ball, he averaged 24.4 yards a touch. Miller attributed his performance to leftover feelings from last year’s 17-14 loss to the Jays.
“Last year, we lost by a field goal,” Miller said. “So, when we came out, we had a bit of a chip on our shoulder.
Miller also noted that the win — which was Battle’s third of the year over a local rival — felt amazing, and came with a sense of nostalgia.
“Our freshman team was me, Darren (Jordan), Trevonne (Hicks); all of us on the same team,” Miller said. “We beat Jeff City, and it was about the same score, so having that feeling back is awesome with these boys.”