Hannibal at Helias
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Ray Hentges Stadium, Jefferson City
Records: Hannibal – 0-0. Helias – 0-0.
Radio: KHMO 1070 AM, KHBL 96.9 FM
Scouting the Pirates: Hannibal kicks off its first game without Mark St. Clair at the helm for the first time in 23 years. It officially marks the Quentin Hamner era, who returns to Northeast Missouri after coaching stops at places like Staley and Keokuk (Iowa).
The running back duo of Damien French and Daylan Reading are both back for the Pirates. French ran for 1,374 yards and 21 touchdowns on 186 carries, while Reading recorded 550 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
The Pirates, however, have new faces at the other skill positions on offense. Sophomore Courtland Watson gets the nod at quarterback after winning the job in the preseason. Senior Preston Bennett and junior Hunter Parker will line up outside. Neither caught a pass last season, and Reading is the only returner back that caught a pass last fall.
Hannibal will lean on its defense while the offense finds its rhythm. Senior end Dante Reading will lead that pack. Reading recorded 50 tackles and six sacks last season to earn second-team all-state honors, and Hannibal has other returners on defense.
Scouting the Crusaders: Helias suffered heavy graduations from a team that struggled according to program expectations. However, junior Jacob Weaver returns at quarterback for Helias. He was thrown into the starting quarterback spot when last year’s starter Daniel Rhea suffered an injury in the second quarter against Hannibal last season at Porter Stadium. Weaver went on to complete 114 of 211 passes for 1,902 yards, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Weaver returns as the team’s best rusher after gaining 810 yards and scoring 11 times. The next best rusher is Alex Clement, who had 22 yards.
The Crusaders graduated their top six receivers last year, and only Griffin Buschjost had any valuable snaps after catching four passes for 71 yards and one touchdown.
Helias, however, does have won the best kickers in the state in senior Vito Calvaruso, who made nine field goals last fall.
Defensively, junior Garrett Schneiders returns after recording just less than 100 tackles despite missing two games.