Graduation day last spring was a bittersweet one for Devin Brown, head coach of the Boonville Pirates. While happy to be seeing a number of his former players wearing caps and gowns, Brown also realized the impact their departure would have on his team this fall.
"The guys we lost last year were pretty good," he said. "We're still a work in progress. We have about five or six guys back. We're 0-2 so we haven't been able to do what we want to do so far. We're still trying to find our way and figure our guys out."
Boonville has suffered losses to California (18-7 on Aug. 24) and Higginsville (20-0 on Aug. 31), which are both 2-0 on the young season.
"California is a good team. Higginsville is ranked third in Class 2A," said Brown. "With Hannibal being the conference opener in the third game, our first three games have been pretty tough. We'll just have to keep working and get better as the year goes on."
Of special concern to Brown is his team's offense, which last week suffered its first shutout since 2009. Boonville's last previous shutout was a 35-0 setback against Hannibal.
"Offensively we haven't scored many points, only seven in two games," he said. "We've had mistakes and we've killed ourselves."
Boonville's defense, which forced three turnovers last week, has been solid.
"The defense has done really well in both games," said Brown. "The thing that hurt us against Higginsville is they have some good athletes. We let them out a couple of times and they got some big plays. We had a couple of fourth and longs and they scored. That's what hurt us against them. Otherwise we've done pretty well. We've just got to tackle better."
After scouting Hannibal, Brown is not surprised by the team's strengths.
"It's the same old Hannibal - tough defense, tough running backs with speed, good offensive line play, good quarterback and defensively big guys up front, speed at linebacker and speed at the back end," he said. "Every time you look at Hannibal it's same in and same out. They might change numbers, but they stay the same."
After notching back-to-back, come-from-behind wins, is Hannibal due for an emotional letdown Friday night?
"Hannibal is never flat for us. Having beaten them to end their conference streak last year, they probably won't be flat against us. They'll be ready to go," predicted Brown.
Don't look for Boonville's players to get out of their bus with chins on their chests after an 0-2 start.
"I think it (team's attitude) is pretty good," said Brown. "We've got a lot of the football season left so they know it's not the end of the season by any means. We've just got to keep getting better, improve from week to week, work on the fundamentals and keep going."
Page 2 of 2 - Friday's game at Porter Stadium is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.