Sophomore Courtland Watson is Hannibal's starting quarterback, Mark Twain without its top two running backs and Palmyra quarterback Corder Lehenbauer shows poise.
HANNIBAL — The Hannibal Jamboree Friday night at Porter Stadium gave football coaches and fans a chance to see what their teams can do against an opponent for the firs time this season.
Here were some notable takeaways from the jamboree with just one week until the football season kicks off:
Watson wins Hannibal’s QB battle
Hannibal’s starting quarterback job seems to have been won, for now, by sophomore Courtland Watson as he lined up with the starting offense in the scrimmage against Clark County.
Coach Quentin Hamner entered camp with three players battling for the spot as senior Preston Bennett and junior Hunter Parker were also in the mix. Hamner said Watson will be the starting quarterback for next week’s opener against Jefferson City Helias.
It’s believed Watson would be just the second sophomore in program history to start the opener.
“I think he brings versatility, and really it’s about fit for us,” Hamner said. “We want to be able to utilize the whole field, and Courtland fits what we want to do right now.”
Watson under center doesn’t leave Bennett or Parker on the sideline. Both lined up at wide receiver with the first-string offense, and Watson’s first completed pass went to Bennett on the right sideline for a first down. Watson also found Bennett for a touchdown pass during a broken play against Palmyra.
Pirates show off new offense
Hannibal football fans were accustomed to seeing the option-style offense that veteran coach Mark St. Clair had run for 20-plus years.
There’s a new offense under Hamner.
The Pirates showed a spread offense that allowed them to run multiple things. They ran jet sweeps, read options and power runs to running backs Damien French and Daylan Reading. They also had Watson sit in the pocket to throw the ball, and had him run the ball off bootlegs.
Hannibal’s defense looks solid
Most of Hannibal’s returning starters are on the defensive side of the ball, so it’s no surprise the Pirates looked solid there.
All-conference lineman Dante Reading was disruptive, as he had a tackle for loss on Palmyra running back Dakota Compton. Daylan Reading also had a fumble recovery.
Cornerback John Clubine picked off two passes, one against Clark County quarterback Sam Wheeler, and the other against Palmyra quarterback Corder Lehenbauer.
“We’ll have to win games with our defense,” Hamner said. “We’re going to have to have a good balance with both sides of the ball. We just need to build upon what we had tonight.”
Lehenbauer shows poise
It seemed like Lehenbauer shrugged off the interception he threw to Clubine.
On the very next snap, Lehenbauer heaved a deep pass to the end zone to Abe Haerr. The Palmyra tight end fought through a defensive pass interference and came down with the catch in the end zone. Haerr, who had 12 catches and five touchdowns last fall, will likely be a favorite target of Lehenbauer this season.
More importantly, Lehenbauer’s ability to make that kind of throw immediately after throwing an interception shows his capability to move on from a mistake.
That was the only touchdown Palmyra’s starting offense scored after failing to do so against Clark County in the first scrimmage.
“There’s that old adage that shooters shoot,” Palmyra coach Kevin Miles said. “(Lehenbauer’s) got to have that short memory and be ready to go. We expect that from him, and he did a really good job.”
Tigers without top running backs
Mark Twain coach Karl Asbury is already having to rely on backup running backs before the season has started.
Running backs Jace Barton and Logan Perrigo did not play in the jamboree as both are nursing injuries. Both are coming off 1,000-yard rushing seasons last season for the Tigers.
That meant Ben Rule got snaps with the first-string offense Friday night. Payton Hawkins also took snaps under center and will be the starting quarterback next week.
Asbury was pleased with what he saw.
“Our depth won’t keep me up at night,” Asbury said. “We showed some promise, even with them being so young. Playing in this type of environment really helps out.”
Asbury said it’s unlikely Barton or Perrigo will play next week, and said it’s more likely they’ll suit up in Week 2.