For many in Northeast Missouri, Friday serves as somewhat of a holiday planted at summer’s end. It’s the Hannibal High School football jamboree, which brings six area programs to Porter Stadium for scrimmages seven days ahead of Week 1 games.
Hannibal, playing as host, will face opposition for the first time since the Class 4 state quarterfinals last November.
Despite the loss of career rushing leader Shamar Griffith and a talented graduated class, longtime coach Mark St. Clair brings back a core ready to fight for the program's fourth consecutive North Central Missouri Conference championship.
The Pirates, looking to continue the success of a 10-3 record a year ago, boast a strong senior class led by Wyatt Waelder, who figures to see significant time on both sides of the ball. Also keep your eye on explosive receiver Will Whitaker, defensive end Evan Allen and a stable of running backs with the likes of Billy Smashey, Kevin Campbell and others.
“We’ve got some holes to fill, but the fact is that happens every year,” St. Clair said. “Our job is just to get them ready the best we can. The thing with Missouri football is we’ve got to be our best at the end of the year. We’re not just teaching for Week 1 but for the long-term.”
On Friday, Hannibal first matches up against Clark County before facing its neighbors of Palmyra in the final scrimmage of the night.
Those neighbors are no slouch.
Coach Kevin Miles’ Palmyra squad will once again reload on the gridiron instead of rebuild. The Panthers return just three offensive starters and a pair of the defensive side of the ball from last season’s 7-4 campaign.
“It’s pretty common for us,” Miles said of all the starting holes to fill. “We typically graduate 17 or 18 players each season.”
Two-way starter Peyton Plunkett will lead Palmyra through the Clarence Cannon Conference. He is pencilled in as the Panthers starting running back as well as linebacker. Jacob Kroeger, who missed some time last season, will be calling the shots under center for Palmyra.
Mark Twain, meanwhile, takes on Bowling Green and Highland on Friday in the preseason event.
Mark Twain ran right through opposition to reach back-to-back district title games the past two seasons, winning 19 games along the way.
The Tigers’ resurgence under third-year coach Karl Asbury is something the squad expects to continue this season. Doing so will require a new generation of talent to lead the way. Gone are three graduated running backs who combined for more than 4,000 yards in 2016. Same goes for the team’s top six tacklers a year ago.
But with the leadership of Lincoln Talbott at quarterback, Conner Grossmann in the defensive secondary and Aidan Epperson leading the line, Mark Twain hopes to be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Missouri Conference and beyond.
“They’re going to be a smaller group, not as fast, not as flashy like we’ve had, but I think they’re going to be those hard-nose, get-to-work type kids,” Asbury said of his Tigers.
Gates for the jamboree open at 5 p.m. on Friday, one hour before the first round of games begin. Admission is $4 per for students and adults, while kids younger than kindergarten age are free. The national anthem will be performed at 5:55 p.m., after which the football will get underway.
The event will be split into two groups of teams: Hannibal, Palmyra and Clark County will scrimmage on the west side of the field, while Mark Twain, Bowling Green and Highland will play on the east end.
The scrimmages will run from each 30-yard line toward each end zone, with two games happening at once throughout the course of the evening. Each team will run 18 straight offensive plays followed by 18 defensive plays during each scrimmage.
Monroe City hosts jamboree
Monroe City is out to prove last season’s run to the Class 1 state championship game was no fluke.
The next step of that process comes Friday night as coach David Kirby’s Panthers host a four-team jamboree and play live competition for the first time since last year, when they parlayed a 6-3 regular season into a playoff run for the ages.
Scotland County, Schuyler County and Van-Far are slated to get reps at the preseason scrimmages at Lankford Field. Monroe City faces Van-Far at 6 p.m., Schuyler County at 7 p.m. and Scotland County at 7:30 p.m.
The Panthers return four of their five starting linemen, including all-staters Jon Saxbury and Alex Wilson. Nolan Pennewell (linebacker) and Zach Osborn (returns) are two other all-state players the Panthers bring back.
Kirby said Monroe City has put behind a 47-14 loss to Penney in the state title game.
“They have put last year away and are focused solely on having the best possible year this season,” Kirby stated.
Courier-Post sports writer Travis David contributed to this report.