Since Boonville joined the North Central Missouri Conference in 2008, Hannibal has only lost one conference game. That loss came at the hands of Boonville in 2011. Last year the Pirates beat Boonville 41-12.
“Starting conference adds a little bit more to the mix,” Hannibal coach Mark St Clair said. “We have been conference champs multiple years in a row here. In fact, we have lost only one conference game here since 2007 and that was Boonville.”
Hannibal is not taking Boonville lightly.
“We go down there with a great deal of respect for them,” St Clair said. “They have a great coaching staff, good kids and they play hard. They are well coached and are going to try to run the ball just like we do. We have got respect for them and we have got to go down there and play our best game.”
One of the biggest things St Clair singled out for the Pirates to do in Friday’s game is to limit turnovers.
“We have got to make sure we are taking care of the football,” St Clair said. “What is probably going to be the difference maker in this game is turnovers.”
To win the turnover battle the Pirates need to play sound defense.
“The number one thing of forcing turnovers is to be fundamentally sound,” St Clair said. “We have had some problems with that a little bit in our tackling which particularly hasn’t been very good in the first two games and that has cost us. So, the number one thing is to be fundamentally sound and then be agressive and hard hitting.”
St Clair mentioned Boonville will be running the ball like Hannibal does. The Pirates have been very successful with their running game in the past.
St Clair was pleased that his team was able to spread the wealth of carries and do it successfully.
“I am very proud of our effort last week,” St Clair said. ‘We had a whole bunch of people carrying the football. ... Overall I think we had seven different kids with carries.”
But St Clair didn’t just single out the running backs. He also credited his offensive line and its improvement from week one.
After seeing flaws in its offensive line during week one, the Pirates corrected those flaws in week two. With the corrections, the Pirates were able to put 42 points on the scoreboard.
“Our offensive line stepped up big time,” St Clair said. “We didn’t play very well as an offensive line in the first game, but they played really well this last week. We have just got to continue the improvement on the o-line.”
Page 2 of 2 - However, the Pirates are not a one dimensional team as they are also efficient when it comes to passing the ball.
Hannibal quarterback Lijah Harrison is healthy and back with the team this week, but it’s Austin Kirby who has been taking the snaps and preparing to lead the offense Friday night against Boonville.
“We were 5-of-6 throwing the ball last week,” St Clair said. “(Austin) Kirby was 10-of-12 throwing in week one. So we are pretty confident that we can throw the ball.”
The sophomore quarterback even threw his first touchdown pass of the year in last week’s win over Battle High School.
But, if a team is going to win, it needs more than its offense working. A football team also need its defense to step up.
“If we do the things we are supposed to do,” St Clair said. “And we respond with some character when things don’t go our way, we are going to be successful this year.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday night in Boonville.