MARSHALL, Mo. — There are times the outcome is as simple as this: Win the turnover battle and win the game.
To get back on track following last week’s loss to Moberly that cost them a third straight North Central Missouri Conference championship, the Hannibal football players understood they couldn’t give anything away Friday night.
The Pirates, ranked fifth in Class 4A, built an insurmountable lead by halftime, scored on special teams and most importantly won the turnover battle to dispatch Marshall 48-14 at Gregg-Mitchell Field on the Missouri Valley College campus.
Hannibal (6-1) finishes the NCMC campaign at 4-1 and will wrap up the regular season next Friday against Columbia Battle at Porter Stadium.
“A lot of it has to do with us,” Hannibal coach Quentin Hamner said. “We had to fix ourselves. It’s kind of like anything else. We had to be in it mentally. We didn’t have any bad snaps. Our offense looked in sync. We were just pretty fluid.
“Our kids just looked confident. I told them before the game it was all about executing and winning the turnover battle. We just had to do a better job. We ourselves felt like we cost us the game last week. That’s not saying (Moberly) didn’t deserve. We just can’t beat ourselves. So it was a good feeling coming out and doing what we did tonight.”
The Pirates did so with a freshman at quarterback.
In the second half of last week’s game, junior quarterback Courtland Watson suffered a mid-foot sprain that kept him from practicing most of this week. Although he could have played Friday night, the coaching staff decided to rest him and put freshman Aneyas Williams under center.
Williams, who started the first six games at halfback, looked comfortable running the offense. He completed 7 of 13 passes for 114 yards with a 75-yard touchdown pass play to Drake Dudley. He also rushed for 114 yards and two scores, including a 48-yard burst.
“I’m very thankful that we had a backup that could come in and do as good of a job as he did tonight,” Hamner said. “Just remarkable that a freshman could come in and know the plays in a week and execute everything that we do.”
Williams will shift back to halfback next week with Watson returning.
“The risk versus reward wasn’t there to play Courtland this week,” Hamner said. “We’re excited to get him back next week. We want to be at full strength and healthy.”
It will make the Pirates more dangerous.
Damien French and AJ Thomas both rushed for 62 yards, with French scoring twice, while Kaiser Greenwell returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown as the Pirates built a 41-7 lead by halftime. The Pirates averaged 21 yards per punt return and controlled field position throughout the game.
“We took advantage of a lot of opportunities,” Hamner said. “We had good moments in all phases of the game.”