COLUMBIA, Mo. — Hannibal football coach Quentin Hamner was disappointed in the result.
He couldn't be disappointed with the effort.
Hannibal scored two touchdowns just nine seconds apart in the fourth quarter, but couldn't finish off the comeback in a 34-28 loss to Columbia Battle Friday night to close out the regular season.
Those quick touchdowns nearly erased a 21-point deficit in a wild fourth quarter. Hannibal, however, couldn't hold onto a 7-6 halftime advantage.
“We still felt really good at halftime because they were playing really, really hard,” Hamner said. “Turnovers were just hurting us. It wasn't even execution. It was just things that happened.”
Turnovers is how Hannibal lost its lead.
Running back Damien French fumbled in the end zone and Battle recovered for a touchdown to take a 12-6 lead with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter. An 11-yard touchdown pass from Khaleel Dampier made it 18-7 in the third quarter.
Hannibal kept battling as quarterback Courtland Watson hit Hunter Parker for a 5-yard touchdown pass that trimmed the deficit to 18-13. After Battle scored two straight touchdowns to lead 34-13, French scored on a 3-yard run to trim the deficit to 34-21 with 3:07 left in regulation. Hannibal recovered the onside kick, and Watson threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Preston Bennett on the very next play.
The Spartans recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.
“We had a chance,” Hamner said. “We just couldn't take advantage of it. We wanted to have some urgency and bring the fight to them since they're a Class 5 school. But we also felt we matched up really well. We knew we needed a great effort tonight.”
Watson led the Pirates with 110 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while French ran for 102 rushing yards and one touchdown on 23 attempts.
Watson completed 12 of 23 passes for 166 yards. Hannibal's offense churned out 396 total yards, while Battle had exactly 400 yards of offense.
The loss doesn't shake any confidence the Hannibal coaching staff has as Class 4 district play starts next week.
“We feel really good about it to be honest,” Hamner said. “There's a few things to clean up, but our kids were really well prepared tonight.
“We just came up short.”