Sophomores like Kaiser Greenwell, John Clubine and Brady Zimmerman are playing as focal points on Hannibal's defense.

HANNIBAL – Quentin Hamner noticed the work ethic by the incoming group of sophomores for the Hannibal football team during the offseason.

That’s been rewarded with starts and playing time this fall.

“They just put in the time and invested,” Hamner said. “But live football is much different which is why guys get cut in the NFL or don’t get scholarships for Saturday. But a lot of it is just perfecting their technique, and that’s what the younger kids have been doing.

“We’re not excited with what the scoreboard has read, but I think it’s going to turn around.”

Most of those younger faces have shown up on defense.

Sophomores John Clubine, Kaiser Greenwell and Brady Zimmerman have all started the first two games on defense for Hannibal. They’ve produced, too.

Clubine had two interceptions against Jefferson City and was one short of tying the program record for most picks in a game. Greenwell has been a ballhawk for the Pirates that’s in on most plays to make a tackle, while Zimmerman has been a welcomed addition to the defensive line alongside Dante Reading.

“They got thrown into the fire pretty early,” Hamner said. “We can see the development with our young kids. We’ve got a lot of inexperience, but I like where we are at.”

That kind of play has earned Hamner and the rest of the coaching staff’s trust.

“I’m just a run-first player, so I have to work with that,” Greenwell said. “I just want to be where the ball is.”

Those sophomores know they’ll get better with experience.

“I just have to keep working like I know how to do,” Greenwell said.

They aren’t perfect. Hamner said he’s seen the growing pains through the first two weeks against Helias and Jefferson City, which both had strong offenses.

But to still have success has the coaching staff confident they have a high ceiling.

“They’re still learning the game,” Hamner said. “Offenses are going to find the young kids and test them, and you’ve seen that. There’s a learning curve, and it’s just a continuous process with these kids.

“We’re excited about their growth. Their ceiling is parallel to how much work they’ll put in. That’s on them, and we have to show them how to get there.”

Greenwell has also seen reps at wide receiver with injuries to offensive starters. Quarterback Courtland Watson, who scored Hannibal’s first touchdown of the season, is also a sophomore.

Hannibal has youth playing in big roles, but that experience will only help later.

“This is our first year starting,” Greenwell said. “We’re still learning the game.”