Last chance for St. Clair, Pirates to go out with bang

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 13, 2018 9:55 am


Mark St. Clair is cognizant of each moment as it comes.

When the Hannibal football team opened practice Aug. 6, it was the last first practice of the season in a career spanning 32 years, now 22 as the head coach of the Pirates. When they kick off Aug. 24 against Jefferson City Helias, it will be his last season opener.

Something new strikes the retiring coach each day as being the last time around.

"I'm excited about going into my last year, and I'm excited about the possibilities in retirement, but honestly, I'm having a blast coaching these guys," said St. Clair, who has a career record of 176-64. "It's exciting for me to come out here knowing it's the last time I have to issue equipment and things like that.

"But I think I have more energy because of it."

St. Clair nearly retired two years ago but changed his mind less than two weeks after announcing his career was finished. There will be no change in his plans this time. He walks away when the season ends, whenever that may be.

"That's on our mind," senior linebacker Jordan Schafer said. "It's not 110 percent we're giving. It's 120. We know it's his last bang, so we're trying to do things for him instead of for ourselves."

St. Clair doesn't want the focus on him. If it is, he knows the Pirates are in trouble.

"Our focus is on Week 1. You've got Helias, and you better be ready to go," St. Clair said. "Anything other than that, you're missing the boat."

Knowing the winningest coach in Hannibal history is nearing the end of his career doesn't change the Pirates' focus. It enhances it.

"We have to focus on what we're trying to do as a team," senior wide receiver/defensive back Will Whitaker said. "But we owe it to him to have a great season for his last year."

The potential is there.

Coming off a 6-5 season in which they lost in the district semifinals, the Pirates return a wealth of experience and play-making ability, so much so that it might not be a typical St. Clair team that runs roughshod over opponents.

No one will go as far as calling the attack Air St. Clair, but his last team might be one of his most balanced.

"We threw the ball last year, but we threw it out of necessity," St. Clair said. "We want to throw the ball when we want to throw it not because we have it."

The same holds true for retirement. St. Clair is stepping away when he wants to, not because he has to.

He's now a grandfather with an 8-week-old grandson who he likes to take naps with, and you can bet he will eventually teach the basics of the option attack. He has hobbies to keep him busy and retirement goals to live life on his terms. That's the beauty of this.

St. Clair, 54, has more life to live.

"I still like what I do," St. Clair said. "I still love being around the coaches and the kids. There's a time when you say you've done it enough, and 32 years is probably plenty."