HANNIBAL, Mo. – The same message was sent across the players and coaches of the Hannibal football team.
The season-opening loss to Helias last week was a wake-up call. The Pirates believe they’re awake heading into Friday’s home game against Jefferson City.
"We just have to give effort for six seconds every play," senior linebacker Ben Sublette said. "It has to be full effort every play. We can take breaks after."
Those few plays Hannibal didn’t give the effort were costly.
Of the Crusaders’ seven touchdowns, four came on plays of 30 yards or more, and the longest scoring drive was seven plays.
"I really believe if you take seven plays out of those games, you wouldn’t know who would have won the game," Sublette said. "We gave effort, but just not at the right times. We didn’t keep going when we just have to keep pushing."
It’s one of the things Hannibal is fixing as it hopes to avoid an 0-2 start for the second straight season. While the defense struggled to keep Helias from scoring, the offense couldn’t find the end zone.
Coach Quentin Hamner expected growing pains with sophomore quarterback Courtland Watson making his first varsity start. It showed as he completed just 3 of 13 passes for 16 yards while throwing two interceptions.
"The Friday night lights got to him," Hamner said. "But we didn’t help him either. They’re things that are very correctable, and there’s also things he’s got to learn."
Hamner expects Watson’s play to improve as his gains experience. With that, the rest of the offense will follow suit.
The Pirates’ veterans will keep Watson’s spirits high during the growing pains.
"We just have to tell him to keep his head up," senior lineman Caleb Allen said. "Last Friday was his first varsity start. We had (former quarterback Gabe Worthington) for two years, and he was used to it when I stepped in. We just have to tell him not to hang his head because that’ll reflect on everyone else."
Hannibal, of course, wants to win avoid an 0-2 start. However, the Pirates know they still won a district title last year despite dropping their first two games.
"It’s a little different, but people will see if we go 0-2," Allen said. "I’d love to go 1-1, and we can do that and some people might say we had a better team last year."
Hamner is confident there will be a better showing Friday.
"It’s a good opportunity for us," Hamner said. "I just hope we respond and the guys can be comfortable in their own pace. I don’t know if the outcome will be different, but you’re going to see a different team."