Face Ft. Zumwalt East for district title

The Hannibal Pirates advanced to the finals of the Class 4, District 4 football playoffs on Friday night at Porter Stadium when they rolled past the Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats 49-14. Judging from the score one might think the Pirates had an easy time of it. But Hannibal Head Football Coach Mark St. Clair will be the first to say his squad overcame both a talented opponent and some adversity. "We had some things that went wrong, but that's going to happen, especially when you are playing a pretty good football team," he said. "We've got to make sure and keep our focus. I thought our kids responded pretty well when something didn't go our way. There were some penalties, a fumble, some things that kind of set us back at times. But our kids responded and that's all we can ask." It didn't take long for the first bit of adversity to arise. On Hannibal's second offense play from scrimmage it fumbled the ball away at midfield. "We felt good taking the ball early, but we fumbled the ball. That could happen. They do it in the NFL," St. Clair said. Hannibal's defense would not allow so much as a first down before getting the ball back on downs. "I'm very pleased with the way our defense played," St. Clair said. "We gave up a couple of plays. That's a darn good football team running the ball that we just shut down. They had to throw the ball to move it. If we had talked about our game plan we would have said we want to make them throw the ball, and we did." After driving the ball from the Pirate 43 to the Wildcat 15, Hannibal would give the ball up on downs. Westminster gave the ball right back on a fumble. This time the Pirates found the end zone, scoring on a 3-yard run by Daylon Reading, who would wind up rushing for three more Pirate TDs on the night. Reading's second touchdown would come on a 5-yard run on the Pirates' next possession. "The only thing that stopped us was us," St. Clair said. "I've got to give them (Wildcats) some credit. They gave us a little bit of fits offensively. They took our option game away. We had to go back to some power and play action. They weren't going to let us run our option." Hannibal's lone second-quarter touchdown came courtesy of the punt return team, which cleared the way for Will Whitaker to gallop 94 yards. In the third quarter Hannibal would score on a 1-yard run by Gabe Worthington and a 2-yard plunge by Damien French. Reading closed out Hannibal's scoring in the fourth quarter with TD runs of 5 yards and 1 yard. "We wore them down a little bit," St. Clair said. "We were really solid tonight. We were physical. We said if we won the line of scrimmage we would win the game." Hannibal, seeded second in the district, will take on the number one district seed, Ft. Zumwalt East, on Friday, Nov. 9. Ft. Zumwalt East beat Priory 31-0 in Friday's other district contest.   danny.henley@courierpost.com