The fall sports season officially began Monday as football, softball, soccer, volleyball, tennis and cross country teams held their first practices. Here's some storylines to watch for this fall.
The summer is finally over.
Thankfully, that means fall sports have arrived.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching baseball. It’s the national pastime and dominates the summer. But when the calendar turns to August, that’s when it gets most exciting as a sports journalist for a small town paper.
Missouri schools were allowed to have first official practices Monday to kick off the fall sports season. While we’re still a little more than two weeks away from the first football Friday, there’s plenty of other sports and games to be played this fall.
With that, that means there’s storylines and things to watch over the course of the next couple of months.
Here’s a shortlist of things to keep an eye on and watch unfold:
New era of Pirate football
August 30 has been circled for all sports fans in Hannibal because it’s the first football game of the season. However, for the first time in 25 years the Pirates will kick off their season with someone not named Mark St. Clair as the head coach.
When Hannibal travels to Jefferson City Helias that Friday, the Pirates will usher in a new era of Pirate football. First-year coach Quentin Hamner will guide the Pirates into that new era, and he’s well aware of the legacy St. Clair had on the program.
Hamner’s roots are in northeast Missouri. He graduated from Clark County in 2000, and graduated from Culver-Stockton College four years later. He’s had success at several coaching gigs before arriving in Hannibal, too.
He was a defensive coordinator for Clark County in 2008, the same season the Indians won the Class 2 state title. He took over as head coach in 2011 and went 19-5 in two seasons. He left there to coach at Park Hill, Staley and then Keokuk (Iowa). He helped guide Staley to the Class 5 state championship in 2017, the same year Monroe City won the Class 1 crown.
That should leave Hannibal football fans confident the program is in good hands and should remain a contender in Class 4.
Can Palmyra softball win a district?
Palmyra does lose Lexi Arch to graduation, but there’s still plenty of firepower for the Panthers to compete for a Class 2 district championship.
Palmyra returns Megan Stone and Bailey Lovelace, who both hit better than .393 last fall. In fact, Stone’s .521 average led the team, and that duo combined to mash eight homers.
Pitching duties will come to junior Lydia Althoff, who threw 32 2/3 innings last year. With Lauren VanTress graduated, Althoff becomes the No. 1 starter.
Palmyra’s path to a district won’t be easy with Monroe City and Highland likely in the same district. But both of those teams also suffered key losses because of graduations.
Mark Twain football rising
The Tigers have slowly been working their way back after being hit with graduation losses after going 11-1 in 2015.
This may be the season Mark Twain finally gets back. Mark Twain went 5-6 last season but won its final three games of the regular season and won a first-round playoff game against Schulyer County. Mark Twain eventually fell to Westran, who went onto the Class 1 state semifinals.
The bulk of this Tigers team is upperclassmen, and with the momentum they had to finish off the season, could get off to a hot start on the way to perhaps an Eastern Missouri Conference championship and compete for a district title.
Class 2 district football a three-horse race
The Class 2 football district has become one of the tougher ones in the state. It’s easy to see why when the top three teams come from one of the toughest small-school conferences in the state, too.
Monroe City, Palmyra and Clark County will likely all be vying for that district title. Clark County won that title last year with a 20-0 victory over Monroe City. Palmyra, who lost in the semifinals, will look to bounce back after losing four of the last five games to close the season after an injury to quarterback Jacob Kroeger.