Pirates improving, but still ways to go

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 7, 2019 1:40 am

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- There were definite improvements by the Hannibal football team from Week 1 to Week 2.

It still wasn't enough to avoid an 0-2 start for the second straight season.

Hannibal had the ball near midfield after recovering a Jefferson City fumble. However, Hannibal didn't pick up a first down and a bad snap on the punt attempt gave Jefferson City a short field that set up the finishing touches on a 27-12 victory over the Pirates Friday night at Porter Stadium.

"Damien French was one tackle from breaking that long run we haven't seen yet," Hannibal coach Quentin Hamner said. "But (Jefferson City) is loading the box, and that's where we have to do a better job executing. It's still a work in progress, but we will get there."

Not getting thrashed like it did in a 46-0 loss last week at Helias shows Hannibal is moving in the right direction.

The opening drive might have said other wise.

Jefferson City (1-1) needed just four plays before quarterback Cole Gresham found Devin White for a 47-yard touchdown pass to give the Jays a 7-0 lead with 10:15 remaining on the clock. Hannibal (0-2) picked up a pair of first downs on its next drive, but was forced to punt.

The next drive was better as the Pirates went on a 12-play, 83-yard drive that was capped off by sophomore quarterback Courtland Watson scoring from 2 yards out for Hannibal's first touchdown of the season.

Watson's point-after attempt missed right as Jefferson City led 7-6 with 11:26 remaining in the second quarter.

"Our intensity just got higher after they scored," French said. "We just took the ball and ran it harder."

Jefferson City, however, answered in just five plays when Gresham found Darrell Jones for a 30-yard touchdown pass that made it 14-6 with 9:17 remaining. That score remained through halftime, and the Jays cushioned their lead when Marshaun Dye returned a fumble 40 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-6 late in the third quarter.

Hannibal answered with a 15-play scoring drive as French punched it in from a yard out to make it 20-12. Jefferson City fumbled on the next play, but Hannibal couldn't recover.

The bad snap gave the Jays the ball on the Pirates' 21, and they scored five plays later to seal the game.

"We just played more football and we were comfortable," defensive back John Clubine said. "Those big plays hurt us last week and it got to us."

Hamner likes the progress.

"We're getting better, but were still getting guys some reps," Hamner said. "We just have to execute better on offense. We have things that are there, but that's what it comes down to."

French finished with 97 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, while Watson had 68 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts. The Pirates totaled 243 yards of offense.

"Coming off that loss last week, we wanted to compete," Clubine said. "I mean, we're competing against some of the biggest high schools in Missouri."