Hannibal, Mark Twain and Palmyra host opponents in first round of postseason

The Hannibal Courier-Post area football teams will open their district tournaments today (Friday), with Hannibal, Mark Twain and Palmyra high schools all enjoying a home game to open postseason play.

Here's a look at tonight's action.

Hannibal (9-0) vs. Kirksville (0-9), 7 p.m. at Porter Stadium in Hannibal

This contest may be the easiest Class 4, District 7 matchup to predict.

Hannibal traveled to Kirksville in September and pounded the Tigers en route to a 76-0 victory. The Pirates rested their starters after halftime and should have no issues in the teams' second showdown.

Hannibal junior running back Shamar Griffith had a field day in his half of work in game one, rushing for 119 yards and three scores before taking a seat. Expect heavy doses of Griffith early, as Hannibal head coach Mark St. Clair has no intention on veering away from his potent rushing attack.

“How (Kirksville is) playing is way less important than how we're playing,” St. Clair said. “Our thought process isn't any different than it's been any other week. We've have to play Hannibal football, we have to take care of the football and play solid defense.”

Kirksville had managed just 76 points this season (8.4 per game). Meanwhile, the Pirates score at a robust clip of 50.5. In the backfield, the team is led by Griffith, who has totaled 2,040 yards on the ground with 30 touchdowns. Behind him, senior quarterback Jerry McBride brings 930 rush yards and 11 scores.

McBride runs St. Clair's option offense, and rarely throws. But when he does, he's usually on target. McBride has completed 16 of 27 passes for 408 yards and five touchdowns.

St. Clair said the Pirates won't pull any rabbits out of their hats against Kirksville, as the coach plans to stick to the basics and win the football game.

“We had a great game last week against Battle (a 42-35 victory over the Class 5 defending state champion), we only had three penalties, and that's the kind of game we want to play,” St. Clair said. “You've got to do your base stuff; we have to play our type of football; we have to get better at everything we're doing; we've got to control what we can control, and that's our effort and enthusiasm.”

Mark Twain (9-0) vs. Chaffee (3-6), 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium in Center

Heading into his team's Class 1, District 1 Tournament opener, Mark Twain head coach Karl Asbury expects Chaffee to throw the football a healthy amount in its spread offense.

Luckily for MTHS, the team has seen plenty of spread offense this fall, and its 9-0 record tells the story on how those encounters went.

“(Chaffe likes) to run with the quarterback and throw the ball, and they do incorporate another running back out of spread formations,” Asbury said. “The good thing is we've kind of had experience against this type of offense all year: Westran ... Clopton ... Bowling Green. First, we have to stop the run and make them pass, and then hopefully we can stop that too.”

The Tigers have had success on defense this season, allowing just 15 points per game. The offense as countered with nearly a 46-point average, fueled by a strong rushing game.

“I've got so many (running backs) and there's only one ball to run with,” Asbury joked.

Senior Tyler Ellege (2,106 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns) leads a pack of Tiger rushers who've gained serious momentum this season. After Elledge suffered a shoulder injury and slowly made his way back, juniors Terry Monroe and Brandon Hamilton found their footing and are now equally as dangerous behind Elledge. Monroe finished with 747 yards and 14 scores while Hamilton added 555 and 13.

“I know the No. 1 guy to stop is Tyler, but it's fun to have other guys to work with,” Asbury added.

Chaffee's biggest threat could be freshman quarterback Landon Tenkhoff. While the first-year varsity signal caller has thrown for 690 yards and six touchdowns, he has done most of his damage with his legs. He has 1,355 rushing yards this season, and is coming off a seven-touchdown performance in week nine.

Palmyra (7-2) vs. Montgomery County (0-9), 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium in Palmyra

For one more week, Palmyra will be forced to venture on without their top rusher.

This time, the Panthers will do so in the first round of the Class 2, District 6 Tournament

With senior running back Travis Harvey sidelined for one more week with a sprained ankle, Palmyra will once again turn to the next man up.

In a week-nine victory over Monroe City, two Panther stepped up big, as senior Phillip Bland and junior Clayton Hudson combined for 254 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Palmyra was forced to rally from a 12-3 deficit before pulling away for the 33-12 win, and has struggled in the last three weeks. Back-to-back losses to Centralia and Brookfield saw the Panthers total just six points, as the loss of Harvey dealt a tough blow to the rushing attack.

PHS head coach Kevin Miles is confident the team has weathered the storm, however, and feels his reserve tailbacks are getting comfortable in his offense.

“I think having Travis gone is huge, but Clayton is really starting to come into his own,” Miles said.

“Clayton is getting smarter and smarter. Last week, it was just a fact of getting him in the right spot and getting him to run to the spot he's supposed to run. But he came along nicely and really played well for us.”

Miles said that Montgomery County's winless record has no bearing on tonight's game. The Wildcats score just 17 points per game, but Miles said he expects a fired-up opponent to take the field.

“They've got some athletes, and they have a lot of kids out. I don't think they're a team we can look past at all,” Miles said. “I don't think them being 0-9 really means a lot.

“We know they're going to show up ready to play hard and be physical and be ready to go.”