In 2020, LJ Williams was fighting to get touches in a crowded Hickman running back room.
On Friday night, he was an electrifying playmaker, finding the end zone three times in the first half for Battle on the opposite sideline.
“I feel pretty good,” he said after Battle’s homecoming game. “That was an amazing moment.”
Williams was the key to igniting a 35-22 Battle victory over Hickman as the Spartans got their first CMAC win of 2021 in the crosstown matchup. That’s what he was most excited about after the game.
“We feel amazing,” he said. “It’s something that we expected, though, so after tonight it does not matter, we are moving on to next week.”
The game started ominously for the Spartans as the Kewpies punched them in the mouth early. Justin Goolsby was intercepted in the end zone, and Hickman senior running back Deon Weston took advantage. Weston had four carries for 85 yards, finishing the drive with a 6-yard scamper to open the scoring.
The rest of the first half was a Spartans stampede. Williams returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, and the second quarter was more of the same. He scored on passes of 28 and 59 yards from Goolsby as the Spartans took a 21-9 lead to the half.
The game plan for Hickman coach Cedric Alvis to get back in the game? More Weston. He opened the second half with a 45-yard touchdown run and finished with 199 yards and three touchdowns.
Goolsby, who was inaccurate most of the night, responded again for the Spartans, this time on a 75-yard touchdown pass to Donavan Hicks that provided much-needed separation on the scoreboard. Goolsby iced the game with another touchdown pass and finished with 275 yards and four touchdown passes.
Battle coach Jonah Dubinski was excited to grab his first win over the crosstown rival as a head coach, and lauded his team’s effort.
“It’s really exciting for our guys and something that is never easy,” he said. “They are a well-coached football team with a group of guys who play hard.”
While Williams’ efforts and Goolsby’s second-half performance were things to be excited about, the Spartans running game was not. Battle lost Rickie Dunn to an injury in the third quarter and struggled to push the line of scrimmage most of the night.
That was until Garrett Murray took over in the fourth quarter. The back finished with 69 yards on the ground, most of them on the game-clinching drive as he found holes constantly. Dubinski was proud of the way he was able to finish off the game.
“GM (Murray) is going to be huge for us and I am proud of him,” he said. “It’s about getting him into the right looks and runs, he was incredible for us on those final two drives.”