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Moberly drops heartbreaker to Battle for first loss

Briar Napier
The Monitor-Index
Moberly's Jarrett Kinder (42) carries the ball into the end zone during a game against Battle on Friday night at Moberly High School.

Moberly football went through a wild week.

First, North Central Missouri Conference foe Marshall canceled its planned matchup with the Spartans this week after dealing with COVID-19-related issues. Second, Class 5 foe Battle stepped up in its place after spending the past couple weeks in quarantine.

It only made sense that the week culminated Friday in a wild game. Unfortunately for Moberly, the game didn’t quite go its way.

Moberly’s unbeaten start to the season ended Friday as Battle won on the road in a 37-36 thriller, with running back Gerry Marteen’s 1-yard rushing touchdown with 6.8 seconds left tying the game and kicker Vojtech Drda’s extra point clinching it.

The finish was the culmination of a frantic fourth quarter, when the two schools combined to score 45 points in the period alone. But despite that, it was a game that Moberly controlled most of the time, either leading or tying with Battle from Moberly’s first touchdown to Battle’s last.

Moberly coach Cody McDowell knew how close his kids came to slaying the big-school dragon. That’s why he — along with many Moberly players postgame — was frustrated that they couldn’t get it done.

“We’re not trying to stay with anybody. We’re trying to win,” McDowell said. “We had a chance to win it, and we didn’t capitalize on that opportunity. So at the end, when you play good teams … you’ve got to make plays, and they made more plays than we did down the stretch.”

Moberly took the game to Battle, establishing both a gritty run game and a sleek connection between quarterback Dominic Stoneking and receiver Toby Short, who teamed up for nine receptions, 130 yards and three touchdowns.

The most important of the touchdowns came late, on a 14-yard score with 1:11 left to give Moberly a 6-point lead (Moberly failed to convert the 2-point conversion). That play was the culmination of a furious scoring sequence between the two schools in which three touchdowns were scored (two by Moberly, one by Battle) in a 2:01 span.

But then, Battle quarterback Khaleel Dampier, dependable (154 yards passing) yet not spectacular all night, took charge. In nearly identical fashion to a touchdown scored with no time left at the end of the first half, Dampier drove down the field on Battle’s final drive with 40 yards passing in 57 seconds to set Marteen up for his game-clinching score.

“Execution just works in different ways,” McDowell said. “Sometimes (scoring) comes in bunches. … That was kind of the flow of the game. That’s kind of what the expectation of this program is: We’re going to to show up and we’re going to play hard for four quarters, and our kids did that.

“We ultimately just didn’t make enough plays when it came down to it.”

The two-headed rushing attack of Jack Davidson and Jarrett Kinder — with occasional help from Short on receiver reverses — torched Battle’s defense to the tune of a grand total of 214 yards rushing for Moberly.

But as for Moberly’s defense, a susceptability to the big play cost it dearly. If two kickoff returns of 80 and 79 yards each by Marteen are thrown into the mix, Battle had 10 plays go for 15 yards or more on offense — including three that went for touchdowns.

“We scheduled this game because we wanted to play and we wanted to win,” McDowell said. “That’s how we prepared. If it doesn’t hurt a little bit when you lose, then it doesn’t mean very much to you.”

Moberly is slated to travel to Hannibal for an NCMC matchup next Friday.

Battle's Manny Chiteri (10) loses his grip on the ball as Moberly's Toby Short (81) knocks it away during a game Friday night.