Heading into Week 8 with a three-game losing streak, the Jefferson City Jays continue to shuffle players around.
Last week, the Jays utilized quarterback Devin Roberson's ability to run the ball with power and speed by placing him at fullback at times.
And for the second time this season, a position move meant a number change. Corey Suttle, who plays defensive end and has played some tight end this season, was inserted at left tackle for the second half last week. No. 44 became No. 78.
"I think Corey is doing a very good job at left tackle," Jefferson City coach Terry Walker said as the Jays get ready to face Battle at 7 p.m. tonight in Columbia. "He's worked there before. We haven't really pressed him to work as an offensive lineman because we had a couple kids there that we thought were going to work out, and then we obviously had an injury with Sam Jakob and that made Corey's ability to play there even more important. Physically he's plenty good enough to play it, he just needs to learn the position."
Walker said there's been other plans in the works for Suttle on offense, but they haven't found the right fit yet.
"We had envisioned Corey being someone who could really threaten teams from out of the backfield, and he's capable of doing that, I just don't know if he was ever comfortable doing that," he said. "He looks much more comfortable at tackle because it's real close to where he's playing at defensive end. You just flip the side of the ball and he's right where he's accustomed to playing, so I think that's made it a little bit nicer transition for him."As far as Roberson, his move to fullback had an immediate impact with the first play out of that set being an 80-yard touchdown run. The offensive production the rest of last week's game was up and down with the Jays going back and forth between Roberson at quarterback and fullback.
"We will continue to work on it and we'll continue to do some of that stuff because that plays to one of the strengths of our team, and that's Roby running the football," Walker said. "We'll continue to look for opportunities that present themselves."
The move for Roberson has given Cole Gresham an opportunity to take snaps. The next step might be to have Gresham throw while in that alignment.
"We have several passes in that Cole is more than capable of making," Walker said. "It just kind of depends upon the situation and the defensive look we are seeing."
Tonight, the Jays will line up across a defense surrendering nearly 35 points per game this season.
The Spartans, who are ranked eighth in the latest Class 5 Missouri Media Rankings, have alternated wins and losses since Weeks 2 to enter the game at 4-3.
Battle has allowed at least 20 points in each game this season and has given up 39 or more points three times.
"They are aggressive on defense and they play really hard on defense," Walker said. "They've been giving up some points so obviously we feel like there's some areas where we can have some success, but it all goes back to our execution.
"There are certainly positives. The issue we've battled all year long has been consistency because we can execute on one play and then not execute on another. Really if you're going to be a good football team you've got to be consistent and then you've got to play with great effort."
What has saved the Spartans this season is having an offense that's averaging nearly 40 points per contest.
"They've got good skills kids and they do a good job of getting the ball to those kids in different positions and space," Walker said, "whether it be the quarterback trying to get to the edge or the running back running the different zone reads that they have. And then their receivers, he gets the ball out quickly and he gets the ball out to them in a position they can handle. They've got good athletes and they make plays."
Leading the Spartans' attack is senior quarterback Jaren Lewis, who's committed to play at North Dakota State.
Lewis has completed about 61 percent of his passes and had racked up nearly 1,500 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's also run the ball for 373 yards and four scores.
"I've seen him use his legs to extend plays to throw the football, I've seen him use his legs to extend the play to run the football," Walker said. "You've got to be postured to play against both types of quarterbacks."
Battle also has a pair of running backs averaging more than 6 yards per carry. Darren Jordan enters tonight's game with 619 yards and four scores on 92 attempts, while Daleshaun Coleman has 427 yards and 12 touchdowns on 70 rushes. Five of Coleman's touchdowns came in an 87-39 win at Harrisonville in Week 4.
The lone team to hold Battle under 28 points this season is Class 6 No. 3 Rockhurst (6-1), which defeated the Spartans 28-0 last week. The Jays will visit the Hawklets next week.
"Rockhurst is just incredibly disciplined," Walker said. "They're incredibly disciplined and their kids are always in the right positions at the right time. That's the product of a coach who's been there for 30-some years and the kids have grown up playing the same defense and the same offense. A lot of those kids have been doing that for years and years, and obviously that's a standard that we're wanting to work towards so that our kids have that level of comfort and stability with the offensive and defensive schemes that were doing."