During the first three weeks of the season the Hannibal Pirates have primarily faced teams whose primary offensive focus was their ground game. That changes Friday night when the unbeaten Bucs travel to Mexico for a conference game with the Bulldogs.
“They’re more of a throwing team, so they’re quite a bit different than what we’ve been seeing as far as their offense,” said HHS Coach Mark St Clair, whose team improved from eighth to seventh in Class 4 of the latest state high school football rankings.
Facing a pass-happy team doesn’t just mean more responsibility for the defensive secondary, according to St Clair.
“A lot of teaching had to go into everybody’s responsibilities,” he said. “How good the secondary plays sometimes has to do with how good we play up front getting pressure on them.”
On defense, the Bulldogs will offer Hannibal a different look as well.
“They’re more of a 3-4, an odd front which we haven’t see much of. They’re going to stunt a little bit, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen from time to time,” said St Clair.
While the Pirates are 3-0 and the Bulldogs are 0-3, St Clair and his troops know better than to take Mexico lightly.
“They’ve got some very good athletes. They’ve got a quarterback who runs the team well. They’re big up front and their overall team speed is very good. They’ve run into pretty stiff competition and they’ve fought turnover problems as well,” he said. “They do have some youth out there. I think more than anything little mistakes have loomed large for them and they have had some turnovers that have really hurt them.”
The Pirates know a thing or two about turnovers. Last week’s game, which Hannibal wound up winning 41-12, saw HHS ahead of Boonville by only a 14-12 margin at the half in large part because of miscues at inopportune times.
“We were very solid with the exception of three glaring mistakes in the first half,” said St Clair. “Other than that for the most part we were very solid on offense, defense and special teams.”
While the score was close at halftime, St Clair felt his team accomplished one of its primary goals last week - get off to a good start.
“We thought we got off to a good enough start play-wise, we just made some mistakes and had some turnovers. Turnovers happen. It’s just part of the game. You want to eliminate them, but they happen at every level. It’s just a matter of learning how you respond to them and I thought we did a pretty good job of doing that,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - After outscoring Boonville 27-0 in the second half of last week’s game at Porter Stadium, Hannibal has now outscored its opponents 77-6 in the third and fourth quarters, plus overtime this season.
Friday’s conference game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
“It looks like great weather. It should be good,” said St Clair.