Hannibal, Mark Twain and Palmyra enjoy home games once again in round two

HANNIBAL (9-0)
vs. HELIAS CATHOLIC (4-6)
7 p.m. at Porter Stadium in Hannibal

As far as Hannibal head coach Mark St. Clair is concerned, week two of the regular season never happened.

But don't expect Helias Catholic to forget.

The Pirates hosted Helias on Aug. 28, and at the time earned what was considered to be a substantial upset at Porter Stadium. Hannibal withstood the Crusaders' furious second-half rally to pick up a 49-35 victory. The Pirates led that contest 35-0 at the half.

Since then, Hannibal cruised to a 10-0 record while the Crusaders stumbled to 4-6.

Records aside, when Helias makes its second trip to Hannibal tonight (Friday) for a 7 p.m. Class 4, District 7 Tournament semifinal game, Pirates head coach Mark St. Clair anticipates the Crusaders will come in with a chip on their shoulders. But, he also expects his team to just play football.

“I absolutely expect (Helias) to be fired up and ready to go – it's playoff football,” the coach said. “But it's still a second-round playoff game. We just have to play football and put our best foot forward and see what happens.”

Hannibal was able to hold off Helias the first time behind a standout performance from junior running back Shamar Griffith.

The quick and shifty ball carrier rushed for 233 yards and four touchdowns in that game – including a insurance score late in the fourth quarter – to put some space between the Pirates and Helias' potent passing game.

Griffith leads the Pirates with 2,125 yards and 32 touchdowns.

The Crusaders passed for 225 yards and four touchdowns in week two and will likely attack Hannibal through the air once more.

The Pirates will be at a slight disadvantage as the opposing starting quarterback in the teams' first meeting will likely be on the bench for tonight's contest. Helias senior Alex Faddoul regained the starting duties earlier this season and leads his team with 685 passing yards and nine touchdowns.

Senior wide receiverAdam Bax leads the Crusaders with 399 yards and seven touchdowns.

Good passing teams have given the Pirates some trouble this season, as Class 5 defending state champion Battle pushed the Hannibal defense to the limit with 306 passing yards and three scores in the regular-season finale for both teams.

But the Pirates managed to escape with a 42-35 victory behind more solid rushing and brilliant clock management by St. Clair. Clock management could again be a useful tool this week.

St. Clair isn't fazed by opposing teams' ability to put up points on his defense, stating that that's what strong squads do.

“Good teams are going to put the ball in the end zone from time to time,” St. Clair said. “It happens. And Helias is a team that's hardened up from a tough schedule. They've played some quality competition this season. They're still a very good football team.”

Against that tough competition, the Crusaders have forfeited just 24.5 points a game. Hannibal's offense counters with 45.5 scored.

“For the most part, every team improves over the course of the season. We've improved over the last eight weeks, but so have they,” St. Clair said. “It's going to come down to the basics, like tackling and blocking. The team that does that is probably going to be the team that wins the game.”

PALMYRA (8-2)
vs. NORTH CALLAWAY (5-5)
7 p.m. at Panther Stadium in Palmyra 

Not only are the Palmyra Panthers hosting North Callaway, they're hosting a team that likely has a bad taste in its mouth.

Tonight's Class 2, District 6 semifinal in Palmyra will be a rematch between two squads that met in the district semifinal a season ago. Only, in 2014, North Callaway was the favorite as the No. 2 seed before being thumped 36-0 by third-seeded Palmyra.

The roles are somewhat reverse this time around, as the Panthers (8-2) are now the top seed in the district bracket while the Thunderbirds come into town seeded fourth. PHS head coach Kevin Miles expects North Callaway (5-5) to use last year's result as a bit of motivation.

“They're probably pretty fired up and looking to come in here and do the same thing to us that we did to them,” Miles said. “They've got some good size and some good athletes, and they're going to play hard.”

North Callaway scores at a rate of 26.7 points per game and allows just under 22 to its opponents. But with an offense that is welcoming back leading rusher and senior tailback Travis Henry (sprained ankle), the Panthers are confident they can do enough damage to reach the district finals.

“Travis looks like he's 100 percent. We'll kind of take him play-by-play and see how he's feeling,” Miles said. “But, we still need to be better up front with our offensive line, and our running backs need to make some good decisions to have some success.”

Miles and the Panthers heavily favor the run, and have the right athletes to accommodate that style. Likewise, Miles isn't expecting the Thunderbirds to deviate from the team Palmyra took on a year ago.

“Offensively, we'll see some of the same stuff: they'll try to spread us out and throw the ball a little bit,” he said. “The defense has done pretty well, and they've got some good kids and some aggressive linebackers.

“They're pretty similar to what they were last year; they have good athletes and they're going to be a pretty good team.”

MARK TWAIN (10-0)
vs. MONROE CITY (3-7)
7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium in Center

Mark Twain High School saw its budding resurgence come to a halt in last season's Class 1, District 1 semifinal round.

At 10-0, the current Tigers look a little different than the club that finished 5-6 in 2014, and will be vying for a berth in the district championship game in head coach Karl Asbury's first season.

To do so, top-seeded Mark Twain will have to knock off visiting Monroe City (3-7) in one district semifinal tonight in Center.

The Tigers are coming off a 48-6 trouncing of Chaffee in the tournament opener, and continue to flourish both on offense and defense.

Mark Twain scores at a robust rate of 46 points per game, and allows just 14. The Tigers have allowed just two opponents to score 28 or more points this season, and still defeated both.

“Both teams like to run the ball, both teams like to be physical.”

“Make the other team do something they're not comfortable with, and you'll be the team that wins.”

“Try to stop the run, first and foremost.”

Logan Minter … he's a big kid and we've got to slow him down.

“They're going to try to establish that they're a physical team, too.”

“Their record isn't that good, but they play in a tough conference. They lost a lot of close games. I think if we can continue to get on top early and get them out of their comfort zone, we'll be successful.”

“Last year they were the favorites, and they had a good season, so hopefully we can turn the tables.”

They knocked us out last year, so let's do the same to them this year.”