HANNIBAL | After falling short in the district semifinals last season, the Hannibal Pirates football team will lean on junior quarterback Courtland Watson and All-State senior running back Damien French to make another playoff run this season.
Hannibal head coach Quentin Hamner enters his second season having high expectations for the 2020 season and has set the motto “No Sacrifice, No Victory,” for the team. The Pirates finished with a 7-5 record in his first season in 2019.
“We must win the day and believe in the process individually and team-wise to get where we have our vision,” Hamner said. “Goal No. 1 is to win Game 1 (against Helias). We are focusing on that process.”
Offensively, the Pirates will run the pistol spread offense that will lean on a strong running game and Watson, who enters his second season as Hannibal's starting quarterback. Watson scored 20 touchdowns, threw for 1,418 yards and rushed for 819 yards, earning All-Conference and All-District honors.
French had a dominant season in 2019, rushing for 1,648 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns, which earned him All-Conference, All-District and All-State honors.
“Damien French is probably the best running back in the area, and he's a Division I talent,” Hamner said. “He's a three-year starter who has led our conference in rushing and been First Team All-Conference.”
Other key offensive pieces for Hannibal include running back/wide receiver Tyler Hardy, wide receiver Joey Worthington, lineman Caden Selle and lineman Kanye Washington.
Hamner said having an experienced backfield and receivers will be a strength for Hannibal's offense.
“Biggest advantage coming back in year two of our pistol spread offense is junior quarterback Courtland Watson, who has the skill set to make every throw and also to be a valuable asset in the run game,” Hamner said. “Our goal is to use our field vertically and horizontally, (making) our opponents not to just be able to defend us one or two ways.”
The Pirates will run a 3-4 defense that will provide multiple looks to opponents. Returning starters include senior All-State safety Drake Dudley, junior All-Conference defensive back Kaiser Greenwell, senior All-Conference inside linebacker Daylan Reading, junior All-Conference defensive lineman Brady Zimmerman, senior defensive lineman DaRell Perry and senior defensive back John Clubine.
Hamner said the team has done a good job in stopping its opponents running game in the past.
“Comparable to a strong defensive front last year, it might be the youngest group and the group with the highest potential this season with junior Brady Zimmerman giving the most experience coming back,” Hamner said. “This group has high expectations.”
Dudley was a Third Team All-State selection last year and one of the team leaders in the defensively backfield. Hamner describes him as the quarterback of the defense.
“With returning All-State safety Drake Dudley and defensive standout Daylan Reading moving to inside linebacker, this brings three levels of football to be a solid group,” Hamner said. “We have traditionally been very multiple on this side of the ball and creating confusion to offenses to adjust to.”
Other players who figure to get significant playing time include junior outside linebacker Brayson Douglas, sophomore inside linebacker Ashton Watts, senior wide receiver/tight end Dylan Admire, sophomore running back Aneyas Williams, sophomore defensive back Markahl Humphrey, junior outside linebacker Rommell Pinner, sophomore offensive lineman Austin Wilhoit and senior offensive lineman Nathan Young.
“(We) will again be young in many spots on both sides of the ball,” Hamner said. “We are in our second year of platooning with only a few (players) going both ways. With (us) being in Class 4 again, we believe we have a chance to win our conference and make a deep run with our potential returning players.”
Hannibal got off to a slow start, starting the season out 0-3 in 2019, which is something they are trying to avoid this season.
The home opener against Helias Catholic is a game that the Pirates are looking for redemption on, after suffering a 46-0 defeat in the 2019 opener to Helias.
“In week one, (we play) Helias, a team we kind of felt we got embarrassed by last year,” Hamner said. “We feel like that's a team that we should be ready to play. We start out the year with a really tough schedule, with Jeff City and Ft. Zumwalt West.”
Aug. 28 – Helias Catholic
Sept. 4 – at Jefferson City
Sept. 11 – Ft. Zumwalt West
Sept. 18 – at Fulton
Sept. 25 – Mexico
Oct. 2 – at Kirksville
Oct. 9 – Moberly
Oct. 16 – at Marshall
Oct. 23 – Battle