By BLAKE TOPPMEYER and DAVID ADAM
Herald-Whig Staff Writers
Mark St. Clair had no idea just how many yards or carries Hannibal senior running back Mitch Nichols was piling up Friday night.
St. Clair simply knew Nichols was consistently gaining solid yardage, so he kept calling his number.
"When somebody is chunking 8 or 9 yards a crack, you want him to keep going," said St. Clair, Hannibal's coach. "So it's just one of those things that fell in place, and nobody had any idea he had that kind of yardage."
The final numbers were impressive. Nichols gained 320 yards on 39 carries and rushed for four touchdowns in the Pirates' 61-32 North Central Missouri Conference victory over Fulton at Porter Stadium. Nichols added three receptions for 66 yards and another TD.
"He did it in so many different ways and on so many different plays," St. Clair said. "He's got an ability to make people miss. He's got an ability to get his shoulders square, so he tends to add yards to every run. But (Friday night), he was able to find a lot of seams and creases and add to that total."
Those seams were available in part because Hannibal's offensive line looked the way it was supposed to at the start of the year. Like the entire team, the O-line has battled injuries. Against Fulton, tackles Pake Zerbonia and Dylan Powell, guards Gus Meyer and Brett Wessel, center Jordan Wilson and tight end Austin Davis paved the way.
St. Clair said Nichols' 320 yards rank as the fourth-most single-game yards in Hannibal history. It marked Hannibal's sixth 300-yard game. Wentric Williams had three 300-yard games, and Antonio McGruder and Brad Griffie Jr., also had games of at least 300 yards.
Williams set the school record that still stands with 386 yards on 39 carries with six touchdowns in Hannibal's 53-30 win over Mexico on Oct. 27, 2000.
Trickery works: Hannibal scored two touchdowns in the final 50 seconds of the first half. The second touchdown was aided by a hook-and-ladder play that produced about 30 yards and set up Shamar Griffith's scoring run on the final play of the half.
Hannibal quarterback Austin Kirby connected with Jerry McBride, and McBride ran several yards before lateraling to Nichols, who took it inside the 10-yard line.
"I actually had another play called, and our line coach (Jason Nolan) said, ‘We've got a chance here to run the hook and ladder,'" St. Clair said. "We'd worked on it for weeks, although not much in the last week. We put it in several weeks ago.
"Jerry McBride just made a great play. (McBride) caught the ball, and ideally you pitch it right away, but they were right there so he ran downfield and actually turned it into more of an option play."
Wishbone magic: Malik Bondon, senior linebacker for the Quincy High School football team, didn't spend many plays on the offensive side of the ball Friday night, but he made the most of his limited time.
The Blue Devils used a heavy wishbone formation on Jordan Osborne's 65-yard second-quarter touchdown run in QHS's 37-14 victory over Peoria Central at Flinn Stadium. Senior linebacker River Bugh was the fullback, with Bondon manning the right running back position. Osborne was at the left back position.
The play was a pitch to Osborne going off right tackle, with Bondon clearing the way. He delivered a crushing block, and Osborne was off to the races.
"We just implemented this new (formation) for me to just go out there and the first person I see, try to lay them out," Bondon said. "That's what I did."
Bondon also had a big night defensively and forced a third-quarter fumble that Quincy recovered.
Earlier this season, Bondon lined up at fullback a few times when the Blue Devils used the I-formation.
"We're always trying to tweak," said Little, whose team's base formation is the Wing-T. "We are a system-approach team, but I think to throw in a another wrinkle and give (opponents) something else to prepare for and to use all your talent is a big deal."
Just for kicks: Before Friday's 51-16 victory over Chillicothe IVC, Quincy Notre Dame coach Bill Connell had used three kickers this season. Zeke Little handled 27 of 30 kickoffs and punted 10 times. Cooper Reis was 1 for 2 on field goals and made 6 of 9 extra points, while Zach Vahle had made 9 of 10 extra points and punted four times.
However, a neck injury sidelined Vahle, and Reis stayed with the boys soccer team at a weekend tournament in Springfield. Connell called on sophomore Ben Nord to fill in, even after he learned late Thursday night that Little, the keeper on the soccer team, would make the trip back to Quincy from Springfield for the game.
"I had already told Nord, ‘You're going to kick my first PAT,' and he said, ‘Coach, I'm going to kick it through,'" Connell said.
Nord was 6 for 6 on extra points and also made a 30-yard field goal. Little punted once and handled most kickoffs, with three going for touchbacks.
Connell even showcased a fifth kicker, junior Konner Daniel, for a couple of late-game kickoffs.
"Some of the coaches joke with me, but if there was like a kicking state championship that we could take all of our kickers to, well, we've got a bunch of them, and I'd like to enter us in it," the coach said.
Around the Western Big Six Conference: Keenan Shorter intercepted two fourth-quarter passes to seal Rock Island's 13-7 victory over Rock Island Alleman. Quinton Holmes' 86-yard TD on a pass from Trey Sigel proved to be the deciding score. That put Rocky (6-0, 3-0) ahead 13-0 in the second quarter before Alleman (4-2, 3-1) scored on Steven Ewald's 43-yard run in the third quarter.
Peoria Notre Dame scored six touchdowns of 15 yards or more in a 41-7 victory over Moline. Abe Driscoll of Moline (1-5, 1-2) rushed for 69 yards on 21 carries and scored his team's lone TD. … United Township's Dominique Parks was 11-of-25 passing for 160 yards in his team's 32-17 loss to Peoria Richwoods. Zach Harris led the Panthers (1-5, 0-4) with 97 receiving yards on four catches. … Ben Holloway rushed for 184 yards on 16 carries and scored four TDs – three rushing and one receiving – to lift Galesburg to a 42-16 victory over Peoria Manual. Galesburg (3-3, 2-1) rushed for 397 yards.