High school football season is long over but that won’t stop several local girdiron stars from playing in one final game as high school players.
On Friday, June 28, 95 of the top senior football players from across the tri-states area (Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois) will buckle their chins traps one last time as high school players in the 9th Annual Do or Die All Star Game.
The game itself is set for a 6 p.m. kickoff at Porter Stadium on the campus of Hannibal High School. In the event of inclement weather, the game will slide back to Saturday, June 29.
This year’s coaches are Centralia’s Erle Bennett for the West (Missouri/Iowa All Stars) and Pittsfield’s Don Bigley for the East.
Practices will be held on Monday through Wednesday at Hannibal High School from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the West and at the same times for the East at Pittsfield High School.
The West has several local athletes being honored this season. Among the 48 players on the team, Hannibal will have three representatives as will Mark Twain and Palmyra. Monroe City will have two players.
Representing the Pirates will be Dalton Powell, Caleb Bieniek, and Jahwaun Cassidy.
Powell was the field general for the Pirates. The second year quarterback threw for 915 yards and nine touchdowns. But, for as good as Powell was at throwing the ball, he was also a running threat. Powell rushed for 560 yards and seven touchdowns.
Supporting Powell was a stellar rushing threat for the Pirates and Bieniek was part of that powerful rushing combination for Hannibal. As a team, the Pirates bulldozed their way through opposing lines for 3,399 yards.
Bieniek was one of two running backs that totaled over 775 yards rushing. In addition, Bieniek was second on the team with 14 touchdowns. But, Bieniek wasn’t just a rushing threat, he could also catch the ball. Bieniek had a team-leading 17 receptions for 266 yards including two receptions that went for a touchdown.
When Bieniek wasn’t putting points on the board by scoring touchdowns, he was kicking the Pirates’ extra points. Bieniek converted on 28 PATs (point after touchdown) and a field goal to lead Hannibal in scoring with 127 points.
Cassidy was another part of the Pirates’ rushing threat. He finished the season with 264 yards and six touchdowns on just 55 carries. But where Cassidy was most dangerous was on special teams. Cassidy returned two kickoffs for a touchdown and racked up 313 kickoff return yards.
Defensively, Bieniek was the Pirates’ second leading tackler with 83 tackles. He also was second with two interceptions. Cassidy was third in tackles with 79 and led the team with three interceptions. He also recorded 1.5 sacks.
Palmyra’s three player representatives will be Will Funkenbusch, Dilan Parish, and Bobby Gruenloh. Funkenbusch was an outside linebacker and defensive linemen for the Panthers while Parish was a running back and linebacker. Gruenloh, who will be continuing his football career at Northwest Missouri State, was a tight end and defensive linemen for Palmyra.
Mark Twain will be sending Kacey Simmons, Nick Nesbitt, and Tyler Steinkamp.
Steinkamp was the Tigers’ leading rusher for the season, finishing with 1,481 yards and 15 touchdowns. Steinkamp averaged 148.1 yards a game for the Tigers.
Joining Hannibal’s Powell on the team as QB will be Simmons. The Tigers’ QB passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, Simmons also rushed for 100 yards and a pair of TDs.
But Simmons wasn’t just the leader of the offense for Mark Twain, he was a two way player and led the Tigers in tackles with 66. Simmons had one sack and one forced fumble while recording 45 solo tackles for Mark Twain.
Nesbitt was third on the Tigers tackle leader board with 62.5 including a team-high 47 solo tackles. Nesbitt also recorded one interception for Mark Twain.
Monroe City’s two players to make the all star squad are Blake Grice and Brendan Williams. Grice was a running back and linebacker while Williams was a center and defensive tackle.
Grice pilled up 486 yards on the ground and found the end zone seven times for Monroe City. Defensively, he led the team in tackles with 105, 74 of which were solo tackles. Grice also had 5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss of yardage.
Williams finished the season with 20 tackles. Three of Williams tackles were for a loss of yardage and one was a sack.
The West will be lead by Clark County with 10 players while Centralia will have seven on the roster. Keokuk will send six players to the All Star game.
Also sending players will be  South Shelby with three players while Scottland County and Van Far will have two players each.
Other schools represented on the West include Brookfield, Paris, Highland, Bowling Green, Macon, and finally Clopton/Elsberry with one representative each.
Chris Duerr of KHQA contributed to this story.