On Friday night at Porter Stadium, Coach Mark St Clair again saw his Hannibal Pirates' second-half performance overshadow its play in the opening half. Although that wasn't exactly the game plan, St Clair could still smile following Friday night's 41-12 win over the Boonville Pirates.
Hannibal, which led by just a 14-12 margin at the half, erupted for 27 unanswered points in the final half. For the season, HHS now holds a 77-6 scoring edge over its opponents.
"I don't have an answer," said St Clair as he sat in his locker room office after the game while his players sang loudly on the other side of a closed door.
"It's definitely something we've got to work on. We must find a way to come out fired up," said HHS lineman Jake Borgmeyer, who had a sack and shared the team lead in tackles with Justin Price at eight. "We're going to be playing some good teams that won't allow us to come back in the second half."
According to Borgmeyer, there was no magic behind Hannibal's second-half surge.
"There were no different schemes, we were just more focused and came together as a team," he said.
Hannibal broke the game open in the third quarter. An 11-yard touchdown run by Mitch Nichols at 6:45 was followed by a 79-yard scoring gallop by Louis Burton at 39.3. In the fourth quarter, the Pirates would strike twice again. Caleb Bieniek scampered in from 21 yards out at 9:26. Dalton Powell followed with the shortest TD of the night, plowing in from less than a yard at 4:33.
"We ran the ball very well," said St Clair, whose team totaled 356 of its 427 total yards on the ground. "We have four to six kids who can carry the ball. We know that four of them can bust one."
Nichols led a balanced Pirate ground game with 109 yards on 17 carries. Burton finished just two yards shy of 100 while Bieniek accounted for 89 yards rushing.
In the first half Hannibal moved the ball well, but turnovers kept it from reaching the end zone. The opening drive stalled on a pass interception by Damario Walker at the Boonville 30, which he return to the HHS 21. It marked the first time this season that Hannibal had failed to score on its opening possession.
Despite having great field position, Boonville could not pick up a first down, surrendering the ball at the 17 when a fourth-and-four pass fell incomplete.
Hannibal followed with an 11-play drive, which saw the HHS Pirates push the ball to the BHS Pirates' 11. That's when the turnover bug bit again, as a fumble was recovered by Nolan Murray.
"We moved the ball. It was just a matter of the turnovers, but those are going to happen," said St Clair. "You've just got to come back and we did."
Page 2 of 2 - HHS would score its first touchdown on its third possession, driving 44 yards in 10 plays. Bieniek capped off the march with a 6-yard dash around left end at 10:01 of the second quarter. The senior then made good on the first of five point-afters.
It looked as though Boonville would answer with a score on the subsequent kickoff. Kesley Callaway took the kick at his own 5, went up the middle and for a moment had nothing between himself and the end zone. Callaway's sprint was interrupted by Hannibal's Jahwaun Cassidy, who chased him down at the HHS 14.
Boonville took advantage of the prime real estate, scoring five plays later on a 4-yard pass from Jacob Francis to James Barnhart at 7:14 of the second quarter. The visitors went for the lead, but the two-point conversion run was stopped short of the goal line.
Hannibal responded with a score on its next possession. At 4:57 of the first half, Powell hit Bieniek with a pass, who reached the end zone with a spinning run to cap off the 34-yard play.
Another HHS turnover, this one on a punt, set Boonville up for its second and final score of the half. The drive was capped by a 4-yard run from Francis. The two-point conversion run failed, leaving the visitors down 14-12 with 1:51 to go in the half.
"We were in the game in the first half, but fell off after that," said Boonville Coach Devin Brown, whose team slipped to 0-3. "You've got to play four quarters against a good team like them."
Hannibal, 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the NCMC, takes its show on the road next week to face 0-3 Mexico, which lost 35-15 Friday night to Marshall.