Friday Football: Capital City gets district victory vs. Battle

Capital City running back Nehemiah Hamilton crosses the goal line for a touchdown during the third quarter of Friday night's Class 5 District 5 first-round game against Battle at Capital City High School. (Garrett Bradley/News Tribune)
Capital City running back Nehemiah Hamilton crosses the goal line for a touchdown during the third quarter of Friday night's Class 5 District 5 first-round game against Battle at Capital City High School. (Garrett Bradley/News Tribune)

Revenge tastes oh so sweet.

One day less than one year after the Battle Spartans ended the Capital City Cavaliers’ first winning season in the first round of the Class 5 District 5 Tournament, the Cavaliers claimed the first postseason win in program history with a 26-7 win Friday at Capital City High School.

“Watching the seniors go home last year, this was a big game to do it for the seniors this year,” Capital City center Matt Wiegand said. “We did it for the first time, we got past the first round. Now we want to keep going for the seniors. It’s everything.”

With the win, No. 3 seed Capital City (7-3) moves on to the district semifinal where it will hit the road to face No. 2 seed Camdenton (8-2), which survived an upset attempt from No. 7 Rolla in the first round. Camdenton scored with 20 seconds left to win 17-14.

“It feels good, I want to cry a little bit,” Capital City defensive back and receiver Isaiah Franklin said of getting the first playoff win.

Battle ends the season with a record of 3-7.

Capital City’s offense didn’t get moving the same way it had the past three weeks -- especially early as the Cavaliers amassed only 23 yards of offense in the first quarter -- but the defense posted one of its best performances of the year, holding Battle without points until late in the fourth quarter.

“Defense, offense, we’ve all had struggles, we just gotta help each other when we’re down,” Capital City linebacker Cohen Davis said. “Defense did a great job, almost a shutout. Offense still threw up 26, we had some issues, but that’s how it’s going to be every week.”

The Cavaliers scored 26 unanswered points through the first three quarters and allowed the Spartans to reach the Capital City 35 on only Battle’s first drive when it started on the Capital City 33 and was held without points.

Capital City forced three sacks, four tackles for loss, an interception, two fumble recoveries and batted down five passes to hold the Spartans to only 235 yards as a team, and only 48 total in the fist half.

“After the Helias game, we realized what we gotta do to be better,” Franklin said. “Ever since then, every day everybody’s been focused on being better.”

After the Cavaliers fumbled on their first drive to give Battle the ball at Capital City’s 33, the Cavaliers held the Spartans to only 25 yards and got a 9-yard tackle for loss on second-and-goal to set up a 25-yard field goal attempt. The try was short, then Capital City allowed only one Spartan first down and 13 total yards the rest of the first half.

The Cavalier offense was able to use that defensive help to get a lead at the start of the second quarter.

Capital City’s third drive seemed to end quickly like the team’s first two had, with the Cavaliers gaining only 17 yards on their first nine plays. Capital City set up to punt out of its own end zone and the snap was low, leading to a kick that would have given Battle a red-zone opportunity, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Cavaliers a new set of downs and they were able to take advantage.

The Cavaliers got their first non-penalty related first down two plays into the second quarter when Nehemiah Hamilton took a carry seven yards, then Phillip Richardson took the Cavaliers’ first carry of more than 10 yards for 14 to get Capital City into Battle territory for the first time.

With quarterback Evan Schaffer lined up in the pistol and Jaylen Thomas behind him, the Cavaliers broke a big play with Thomas taking a carry up the middle and breaking to the left sideline for a 36-yard touchdown run.

“We had to make sure our intensity level and our focus level was matching Battle,” Capital City coach Joe Collier said.

The Cavalier defense forced a three-and-out to maintain momentum, but the offense struggled to get started once again and was set to punt following a three-and-out of its own.

Capital City got some more help when the punt was fumbled, allowing Dante McRoberts to jump on it at the Battle 21 and set the Cavaliers up for a 28-yard field goal from Weston Schofield to make it a 10-0 game with 2:02 left before halftime.

An Andy Cubilla sack on second down seemed to have the Cavalier defense ready to get off the field once again, but a pass interference call brought Battle to third-and-2 from its own 28. But the Spartans were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to move back to their own 14 for the team’s third punt in four drives.

Capital City started again at the Battle 42 and Schaffer connected with Richardson for a 26-yard gain on a running back screen to bring the Cavaliers to the 16. Three plays later, Schofield connected on a 29-yard field goal to send the Cavaliers into the break up 13-0.

“We weren’t proud with 13, we weren’t satisfied,” Wiegand said. “We knew we had to come back out and shut them down because every team can come back. We know a team can make it in a half because we’ve done it before. We had to come out, put them away and send them home so we could keep going.”

The Cavalier defense forced two more three-and-outs out of the break, setting up the second Cavalier drive at their own 34.

On third-and-6, Schaffer kept a read option around the left side of the line and cut back to his right to get around Battle’s linebackers, gaining 46 yards and setting up a Hamilton 16-yard touchdown run on the next play.

Battle’s offense seemed to get some more movement, reaching Capital City territory for the first time on a drive that started behind the 50, but Franklin was able to jump on a fumble, giving Capital City its next drive at its own 38.

On the second play, the Cavaliers broke free with Richardson taking a carry up the middle and breaking down the left sideline, running free for a 59-yard touchdown to give the Cavaliers their biggest lead at 26-0 after Schofield hit his third extra point.

Battle looked to get more momentum on its next drive, reaching the red zone for the first time since its opening set, but on an attempted wheel route to the front corner of the end zone, Jaqures Richardson jumped in front and pulled down his second interception in as many weeks to keep the shutout going.

“Earlier in the year, we were all kind of doing our own thing,” Davis said. “Now we’re moving as one, we’re playing as a team. Now I think we’ve got a lockdown secondary, linebackers, D-line, we’re all playing as one and that’s what we need to win.”

The Spartans were finally able to break through on their final drive, getting a couple of big plays in the passing game to set up a Chris Brown 3-yard touchdown out of the wildcat, his ninth carry in the direct-snap heavy formation.

“It feels good, it feels good,” Collier said of getting revenge. “We’re just happy to be moving on and building new records for ourselves.”