The Hannibal football team took advantage of four Boonville turnovers and one interception for a 26-7 win in the NCMC opener for both teams Friday night at Gene Reagan field.
Hannibal, improving to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the conference, never trailed in the game against Boonville and led 20-0 at the half and 26-0 after three quarters.
Although both teams had trouble hanging on to the ball in the first quarter with two fumbles each, Hannibal opened the game with a six-play, 63-yard drive for the score with 9:12 left to go up 7-0. The 35-yard pass from quarterback Gabe Worthington to tight end Evan Allen put the Pirates on the board first.
Boonville also drove the ball down field on its first drive but fumbled the ball going into end zone for a touchback. Three fumbles later, two by Hannibal and one again by Boonville, the Pirates hit paydirt again on a 15-play, 77-yard drive for the score to extend the lead to 14-0. The 21-yard connection from Worthington to Will Whitaker was the second touchdown pass of the game for Hannibal.
"Turnovers were ugly," Hannibal coach Mark St. Clair said. "There's no other way to describe it. That's something we've got to get corrected, but Boonville had the same problem. The difference was we capitalized when we got a turnover and they didn't."
Hannibal again played opportunistic after recovering another Boonville fumble on its next drive at the Hannibal 21. Six plays later, the Pirates went to the air again on a 53-yard pass from Worthington to Whitaker to extend the lead to 20-0 with 1:05 left in the half.
Hannibal finished the first half with 11 first downs, 94 yards rushing and 150 passing for a total of 244. Boonville, meanwhile, had six first downs along with 83 yards rushing and 48 passing for a total of 131.
Worthington threw three touchdown passes on 6 of 8 attempts in the first half, two of which found its way into the hands of Whitaker, who had three catches for 83 yards. Worthington also had seven carries for 44 yards.
As for Boonville, sophomore Avian Thomas led all rushers in the first half with 12 carries for 74 yards. Quarterback Malik Brazil completed 4 of 7 passes for 48 yards.
The turnovers continued for Boonville in the second half when senior Kevin Campbell picked off a Brazil pass and raced to the end zone for the score to grow the lead to 26-0.
"(Boonville) was backed up inside their 20 and they ran a little flat pattern and Kevin jumped their big tight end, took it from him and got in the end zone," St. Clair said.
Boonville had its chances after that when sophomore Tramell Coleman picked off a Worthington pass at the Pirates 10 with 5:18 left in the third. Boonville sophomore Josh Polk also recovered a fumble at the Pirates 24 at the end of the third quarter but was forced to punt three plays later.
Boonville then held Hannibal on downs at the Pirates 3-yard line. Twelve plays later from the Hannibal 2, Thomas punched it in for Boonville’s only score of the ballgame with 50 seconds left to make it 26-7.
Boonville coach Barry Blank said his kids came out and played hard and defensively did a good job containing the run for the most part.
“We were making them earn a lot of their yardage,” Blank said. “We had some pass breakdowns and their kids made some great plays. Offensively I thought we moved the ball early but you can’t fumble inside 20. We had chances where you feel like you can at least put three on the board but we weren’t able to do that. Then we throw a pick six there and that’s probably me getting a little greedy too fast and should have been a little more patient, but our kids played hard.”
For the game, Hannibal had 26 first downs along with 227 yards rushing and 241 passing for a total of 468. Boonville, meanwhile, finished the game with 12 first downs, 169 yards rushing and 72 passing for a total of 241.
St. Clair was encouraged by how his defense prevented big plays like ones that hurt Hannibal in its first two games.
"Fundamentally we're getting a little bit better on defense," the longtime coach said. "We said all along if we didn't give up a big play on defense we'd be fine, and we didn't give up a big play. That's a key for us. Big plays have been our achilles heel, and we didn't give that up today, and that's the main reason we were able to hold them scoreless for three quarters."
On an individual note, Worthington rushed 10 times for 60 yards and completed 10 of 13 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. His passing yardage was second-most in program history for a single quarterback in one game, coming two yards short of Brett Park's record set in 2007.
Whitaker led Hannibal with four catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns, while senior Wyatt Waelder caught four passes for 74 yards.
"When you've got two kids like that out on the edge, it provides some opportunities," St. Clair noted. "They found some holes and places to get open and Gabe was able to deliver the ball to them."
For Boonville, Thomas finished the game with 22 carries for 153 yards and one touchdown. Brazil completed 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards and one interception while tight end Brandon Johnson had two catches for 32 yards.
Chris Bowie is sports editor of the Boonville Daily News.
Hannibal Courier-Post sports editor Kevin Graeler contributed to this story.