KHS' upset bid undone by turnovers, penalties and kick return.
Kirksville football isn't necessarily looking for moral victories anymore, but they were forced to settle for a good one Friday night.
The Tigers took visiting Hannibal, a North Central Missouri Conference powerhouse, to the ropes before falling, 33-20, at Spainhower Field. Turnovers, untimely penalties and a special teams' breakdown combined to undo what had the makings to be Kirksville's first win over the Pirates since 1998.
"We know we can play with anybody," KHS head coach Jeff Jacques said. "That was four quarters and that was a quality team. We just have to clean up and fix our mistakes. You can't turn the ball over four times and beat a quality team like that. We've got to fix those things, but you know what? The effort we got from the orange and black tonight was exactly what I expected. We did good."
Kirksville dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the NCMC. The Tigers play at Boonville next week.
Kirksville's primary source of offense was through the air, as Tyler Osborn passed for 124 yards and two scores and Makenna Cook threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Blake Riley. That play pulled KHS within 25-20 with 5:28 to go in the third quarter.
Hannibal responded on the ensuring kickoff, as Mitchell Nichols dashed 95 yards for a touchdown. The Pirates converted a two-point play to go up by the winning margin of 33-20.
KHS advanced the ball to the Hannibal 44 and 35 later in the game, but lost a fumble and turned the ball over on downs. KHS turned the ball over four times in the game, including two interceptions.
"No question, turnovers was the name of the game," Hannibal head coach Mark St. Clair said. "Without those turnovers I think you'd see a really neck-and-neck game."
Jacques expressed optimism that his team was getting closer to putting moral victories into the past.
"When you've got this quality of a team coming in, I think it's been since 1998 that we beat this team, and we had them on the ropes, but, would've, should've, could've, we've got to quit doing that because the last three weeks we've been like that," Jacques said of recent close losses. "We've got to get up over the hump and we'll be there."
Kirksville jumped out to an early lead thanks to the arm of Osborn, who completed his first three passes for 115 yards and a pair of touchdowns; a 37-yard pass to Nathan Farnsworth and a 69-yard strike to Blake Riley.
Hannibal answered both scores with its punishing ground attack that saw three players - Mitchell Nichols, Shamar Griffith and Wyatt King - combine for 346 yards rushing.
A key sequence in the first half saw the teams trade turnovers within four plays. The Tiger defense came up with a stop when Farnsworth recovered an Austin Kirby fumble at the KHS 5, but Kirksville gave it right back three plays later when Osborn was picked off by Austin Lewton at the KHS 9. Hannibal scored two plays later, cutting the Tiger lead to 14-12 with 5:13 to go before the break.
Kirksville's next drive ended in another turnover when Osborn was picked by Kyle Messer. Nichols scored on a 31-yard touchdown run three plays later, making it 18-14, and Hannibal would add one more score to go up 25-14 at the break.
The Kirksville defense did seem to make progress on the Hannibal rushers late in the first half and throughout the second half. Jacques said there was no adjustment in scheme, only in effort.
"That's something we preach the whole time. T.E.A.M. - total effort among men," Jacques said. "We finally got it there midway through the second quarter. They came together and said, 'You know what, we can do this.' We didn't make any adjustments. The kids just put forth more effort and that's what we need from here on out.
"We've been stressing to our offense and defense and the whole team that as long as we're playing our best ball by Week 9, we're good," Jacques said. "We keep getting better each week and as long as we keep doing like that, we're going to be ready to play."
Farnsworth had 12 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception to lead the KHS defense. Riley carried the ball 13 times for 56 yards. Cook had 10 carries for 46 yards.
Hannibal improved to 4-1 and 3-0 in the NCMC. The Pirates host Fulton next Friday.