As the Battle Spartans took a knee to run out the clock, a dejected Bruin team dispersed throughout the field to shake hands with its crosstown rivals. After the display of sportsmanship, the home squad scattered to the end zone near the scoreboard. The trumpet-toned band played the RBHS fight song at a booming volume. Cheerleaders surrounded the team; waving their pom poms, smiling and singing along to the familiar tune. Chatter filled from end to end of the metallic bleachers as students filed down the stairs. All of these elements made for a cacophony of distractions that went unnoticed for the players of RBHS. They were only focused on one thing; a 21-14 loss, the third straight for the season.
The Bruins got off to a slow start on both sides of the ball, allowing the Spartans to execute an early lead. Battle broke the 0-0 tie with five minutes left in the first quarter, courtesy of a 44-yard laser touchdown pass by senior quarterback Harrison Keller to senior wide receiver Dawson Meierotto. Subsequently, the Spartans chose to attempt a two-point conversion, which RBHS defended well to keep the score 6-0.
The visitors weren’t done racking up their points yet; with eight minutes left in the second quarter, Keller threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Meierotto. This time the Spartans elected to kick a point after try (PAT) which seemingly worked, putting them up 13-0.
Following a short-lived Bruin’s drive, Battle scored on a 5-yard rushing touchdown from Keller. Once more they pursued a two-point conversion, and once more RBHS stopped them, making the score 19-0.
The Bruins answered with a score of their own when senior fullback Miles Cheatum burst through the traffic of players trying to evoke him to break the plane of the end zone. Will Norris’ PAT was good, and RBHS narrowed down the deficit to 19-7. The momentum, however, still laid with the dominant visiting team going into the second half.
Neither team was productive for much of the third quarter, until a Battle punt pinned RBHS at their own 1-yard line. The poor field position not only meant they would have to travel 99 yards to obtain a touchdown, but also increased the risk of a safety. A few plays into the drive, the fear turned into a reality when senior middle linebacker William Henderson tackled a Bruin inside of its own end zone. Two points were awarded to Battle, making it a 21-7 ballgame with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Things were looking down for RBHS when they were forced to kick off to Battle after the safety. Until a few plays into the drive, when senior defensive linemen Jalen Logan-Redding recovered a fumble at the Battle 44-yard line, pouncing on the ball in a sea of bodies after it was battered out of a Battle player’s possession.
This led to a drive in which senior wide receiver Brett Mooney came up with clutch catches more than a few times. Including a game-changing touchdown reception with 10 minutes left in the game on a 9-yard pass from senior quarterback Grant Hajicek. Mooney just barely tapped his toes in-bounds before he stumbled out of the end zone, securing the ball.
“I just wanted to get back on the field again as soon as possible [after the touchdown] and make something happen,” Mooney said. “I wanted our defense to get a stop and they did. I was excited for the moment but I was looking forward to potentially tying that game.”
“We’re capable of playing; we held them to two points in the second half and scored a couple touchdowns. It’s one of those things that it’s gotta become constant. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot.” — Head Coach Van Vanatta
The play fueled an eruption of energy that was necessary for the Bruins to stay competitive in the contest.
“[The touchdown] made it a lot closer and we knew we had the momentum,” senior inside linebacker and tight end Will Norris said. “At the end of the day they made plays and we didn’t. You can’t hang your head about it. You’ve got to move on.”
Regardless of the fact that they should persist forward, Head Coach Van Vanatta said the Bruins still need to pore over the past three games — they must develop an understanding of why they haven’t played to their full ability. In fact, he saw so many flaws in his team that he had trouble narrowing it down.
“We’ve gotta get something going. We’ve gotta get leadership; we’ve gotta get accountability; we’ve gotta figure it out,” Vanatta said. “We’re capable of playing; we held them to two points in the second half and scored a couple touchdowns. It’s one of those things that it’s gotta become constant. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Although the loss will be tough to get over, Mooney said it is time to learn from their mistakes and carry on to the next game.
“We gotta forget about this [even though] it’s going to be hard,” Mooney said. “The seniors gotta step up. It all starts with our first practice Monday. We gotta get control of everyone and we gotta make this our season.”
Despite the faults of the team over the past three games, Vanatta can see the buds of a decent squad. But they must fix their blemishes in order to accomplish this.
“We’re capable of being a good football team,” Vanatta said. “But we’re going to have to fight like all get out or this is going to continue to be the norm.”
Do you think the Bruins can overcome the first three losses of the season? Let us know in the comments below