Moberly rides momentum of late first-half TD, beats Hannibal

Posted: Oct. 12, 2013 1:31 am Updated: Nov. 2, 2013 2:15 am

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

MOBERLY, Mo. -- Dimaja Smith refused to be tackled.

Smith, the Moberly football team's 6-foot-2, 209-pound senior running back, shrugged off four Hannibal Pirates en route to a 61-yard touchdown run with 3.7 seconds remaining in the second quarter Friday night.

That gave Moberly a seven-point halftime lead, and the Spartans scored on five of their first six second-half possessions to claim a 56-36 North Central Missouri Conference victory at Noel Spartan Stadium.

Hannibal (5-2, 4-1 NCMC) had tied the game at 14 on Mitch Nichols' 25-yard touchdown run with 1:14 remaining before halftime. Moberly (7-0, 4-0) needed just four plays to travel 73 yards and score on its ensuing possession.

"We gave up a 61-yard dive play for a touchdown. That probably was the game," Hannibal coach Mark St. Clair said.

Had the first contingent of would-be tacklers brought down Smith, he would have been limited to a short gain. He held off the final pursuer with a stiff arm at the 5-yard line.

"That tipped the scale in our favor," Moberly coach Jason Ambroson said of the run. "It was a great individual effort by him."

The win gives Moberly, ranked No. 5 in Class 4, a stranglehold on the NCMC title race. The Spartans haven't won the conference crown since 2007, which was also the last year they beat Hannibal. The Pirates' 13-game NCMC winning streak ended.

The NCMC doesn't use a head-to-head tiebreaker, so Hannibal could still gain a share of the conference crown if Moberly stumbles once.

That seems unlikely considering the Spartans' remaining games are against Boonville and Mexico, which have a combined 5-9 record.

"We're not going to have a pity party," said St. Clair, whose team is ranked No. 9 in Class 4. "We're not going to sit around and moan and groan about it. We're going to get ready to play next week, bounce back and play hard. It's that simple. You can't sit around and feel sorry for yourself."

The Spartans buried Hannibal in the third quarter. Moberly's Gregg Bain returned the opening second-half kickoff 55 yards, setting up a five-play touchdown drive capped by quarterback Justin Connaway's 1-yard scoring plunge.

Hannibal's Austin Kirby threw an interception on the ensuing possession, and Connaway followed with a 59-yard scoring run.

After Bain converted the two-point conversion, Moberly led 36-14 with the second half less than five minutes old.

Moberly piled up 509 yards of offense, including 386 on the ground. Bain, Connaway and Smith all rushed for at least 120 yards. Moberly had 11 plays of at least 15 yards, with six topping 45 yards.

"We just have to keep fighting," Pirates sophomore lineman Dylan Powell said. "If we give up a big play, we have to bounce back. We can't sulk."

Hannibal's Mitch Nichols rushed for 141 yards on 30 carries and scored three TDs. Wyatt King added 99 yards on 10 carries. Kirby completed 9 of 16 passes for 127 yards and twice connected with Jerry McBride for TDs.




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