Penalties frustrate Pirates, but do little to slow them in 47-7 win

The only team putting up a fight against Hannibal on Friday was Hannibal.

A plethora of Pirate penalties and mental mistakes tainted a 33-point first half, leaving Class 4's No. 6-ranked football team with plenty to clean up following its 47-7 victory over Kirksville in the first round of the District 7 Tournament in Hannibal.

"A win is a win," Hannibal head coach Mark St. Clair said. “You'll take a win any time you get it whether it's pretty or ugly. There were times where this wasn't very pretty, but the goal is to move on and get a win, and we did that.”

Hannibal (10-0) managed to do so behind 390 yards of offense and another big night from senior quarterback Jerry McBride mixed with a defense that held the Tigers to just 135 yards. But the hosts also committed 11 penalties for 90 yards.

“It was a lack of focus,” said McBride, who rushed for 163 yards on nine carries with a touchdown. “We've got to work on that. We can't have that next week, that'll just hurt us. We can't have that through the playoffs.”

The tone was set from the outset Friday as Kirksville committed two straight penalties on its opening kickoff. St. Clair declined both, giving McBride a chance to return the third attempt 82 yards for a score and a 7-0 lead.

Hannibal scored a minute later when Kirksville turned the ball over on a fumble at its own 21-yard line.

Pirates junior running back Shamar Griffith then scampered into the end zone from 12 yards out on his team's first play of the drive for a 14-0 cushion with 10:46 left in the opening quarter.

Things took a small turn in the right direction for the Tigers on their next series, however, when successive offsides and roughing the kicker penalties from Hannibal allowed Kirksville (0-10) to move from its own 22 to the Hannibal 36 before finally punting.

“We battled through adversity,” McBride added.

The Pirates' lead swelled to 21-0 on their next possession when, on second down, McBride reached the end zone on a 39-yard run.

But from there, the Hannibal penalties began piling up.

On Kirksville's next drive, the Pirates were flagged for an offsides penalty before being hit with the same penalty on its own drive a series later.

Still, Hannibal's overpowering offensive prevailed, as that possession ended with an Eric Jones 10-yard rushing touchdown that made it a 27-0 Hannibal advantage.

On the ensuing kickoff, the sloppy play continued for the Pirates, who were tagged with a personal foul call.

Following a Tigers punt, Hannibal came away with Trevor Watson's 37-yard field goal and a 30-0 lead, but not before committing two more infractions during the 8-play, 54-yard drive.

Things worsened when, late in the half, a Griffith fumble led to a near-Kirksville field goal.

The Tigers recovered the dropped ball at the Hannibal 42 and marched to the host's 12, a move helped by another HHS personal foul penalty.

Pirates senior lineman Dylan Powell put an end to the threat when he blocked Pierce Miletich's 29-yard field goal attempt.

“We've got to focus; we weren't really focused,” Powell said. “We have to make sure we're doing everything right. When we play next week, if this happens, that's going to really hurt us and it could possibly end our season.”

After Powell's block, Watson added a field goal from 29 yards to put Hannibal up by 33 just before the half.

Griffith added a second-half touchdown on a 4-yard run and ended his night with 85 yards on 14 carries. Sophomore Billy Smashey added a rushing touchdown for the Pirates with 9:25 left in the game.

Kirksville got on the board against Hannibal for the first time this season when John Bohon scored on a 1-yard run with 3:21 remaining.

In two victories over the Tigers this season, Hannibal outscored their North Central Missouri Conference counterparts 123-7.

The Pirates, seeded first in their district, hold home field advantage throughout district play, and will meet the winner of today's (Saturday) 5 p.m. Helias Catholic-Liberty matchup on Oct. 30. Hannibal defeated Helias 49-35 in Hannibal on Aug. 28.

“We've earned the right to be at home with our record,” St. Clair said. “We're not fortunate to be at home, we've earned the right to be at home, and we've been on the other side of that before, so we're glad to be here at Porter Stadium.”