In a back-and-forth game like Friday night's Jefferson City-Battle matchup, what each team does at the end of the first half and the start of the second half can make all the difference.
Battle scored a go-ahead touchdown as time expired in the first half and the Spartan defense turned the Jays over on downs on their first possession of the second half.
"If you look at those drives, Battle did their job and scored and we didn't," Jefferson City coach Scott Bailey said following a 39-21 defeat at Adkins Stadium. "That just sums it up."
Battle tied the bow on its third straight victory with a pair of 50-plus-yard touchdowns in the second half while turning the Jays over on downs four times.
But the Jays went blow for blow with the Spartans in the first half, leading twice.
Running back David Bethune ran off-tackle to the right on the first play of the game, brushing off a defensive back near the line of scrimmage and sprinting 69 yards for a touchdown just 17 seconds in.
Bassil Ahmed made the first of three extra points for a 7-0 lead.
A breakaway play might have got it started, but it was the physical running of the Jays that allowed them to match the Spartans score for score.
Down 14-7 early in the first quarter, fullback Jacob Duke gained 5 yards on second-and-9 and a facemask penalty put the Jays 5 yards from the end zone.
Quarterback Seth Brooks then ran for 2 yards on each of the next two plays before Duke pounded into the end zone for a 1-yard score to tie it at 14.
Duke recovered a fumble at the Battle 16 to set up that scoring drive.
"I thought our offensive line coming off a week ago wasn't happy, and neither was I," Bailey said, referring to a 28-0 loss to Helias. "I thought they kind of took it personally coming into this game that we want to be able to get our run game going. I felt like we did."
The Jays finished with 241 yards rushing, led by Bethune with 102 yards on 14 carries.
Kevion Pendelton got a fair share of snaps at quarterback for the Jays and ran it 13 times for 61 yards.
On their next drive, the Jays converted a third-and-1 and a third-and-inches with Brooks keepers, and a fourth-and-1 with a handoff to Duke.
"I told (the offensive line) there's gotta be some part of you that demands that I run the ball your direction," Bailey said. "And in the first half when I look out there — and I think we were in a third and short — every single one of our offensive linemen is tapping their hip. All five of them are telling me you can run behind me and get this. That was a big change in mindset from a week ago."
The drive nearly stalled with a false start penalty and an incomplete pass. Then Devin White saved it.
Brooks threw it downfield to White, who hooked his right arm around a Battle defensive back and secured the ball while being shoved to the turf.
The 21-yard gain set up Duke for a second 1-yard touchdown and a 21-20 lead with 1:15 left before halftime.
That would be the final score for the Jays, who never got any further than the Battle 28 in the second half.
A 5-yard loss on a fumble doomed Jefferson City's first drive of the second half and an illegal motion penalty on third down halted the next drive.
"If you're trying to control the ball and you're doing it three downs at a time to get a first down, you can't get behind the chains," Bailey said. "That's the one thing that will choke the life out of an offense like that."
Meanwhile, Jefferson City's defense was doing all it could to slow Battle's offensive weapons.
Jays defensive end Josh Copeland tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage on fourth down on the opening drive of the second half and another tipped pass put the Spartans in a third-down situation on their next drive.
That's when Battle running back Gerry Marteen went 52 yards for a touchdown, running into the back of a teammate before juking past two defenders and sidestepping another. The score made it 32-21 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
Marteen outgained the Jays on the ground himself, running for 250 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
"You asked me earlier if they were like anybody else (we had played) and no they're not," Jefferson City defensive coordinator Jeff Jacques said. "They are a good football team."
Marteen had two runs of at least 25 yards on Battle's opening drive, including a 25-yard touchdown to tie it at 7.
Four plays after Seth Wray recovered Jays fumble, Marteen scored from 6 yards out for a 14-7 lead.
An option toss to receiver Tommy Atherton burned the Jays twice in the game.
Jefferson City had Battle quarterback Khaleel Dampier wrapped up before he tossed it to Atherton, who ran it in for a 12-yard score and a 20-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
Atherton was in the end zone again on a similar play as time expired to lead 26-21 at halftime.
Battle's effectiveness on the ground set up its final touchdown: a 57-yard pass from Dampier to Manny Chiteri on a play-action call.
Dampier completed 7-of-16 passed for 125 yards while running nine times for 37 yards.
Friday concluded play in the inaugural season for the Central Missouri Activities Conference.
Battle (5-1) improved to 3-1 in conference play with the win, while Jefferson City (3-5) ended up 3-3 in the CMAC.
The Spartans will take on Hannibal on Friday on the road.
Jefferson City will host Fort Zumwalt West (2-6) on Thursday at Adkins Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"We'll just put our jerseys on 24 hours sooner," Bailey said of the team's weekly routine. "It doesn't change."