The Hannibal football team has lost two games by a total of four points to quality opponents. The tested Pirates look to earn their first victory Friday against Bolivar.
The Hannibal football team racked up 911 yards of total offense combined over the first two weeks of the season with nothing to show for it in the win column.
The Pirates hope for that to change in their Week 3 home matchup against Bolivar at 7 p.m. on Friday at Porter Stadium.
The cross-state programs are squaring off for the first time.
“It's pretty simple,” Hannibal coach Mark St. Clair said. “We've averaged 455 yards of offense per game, so we're doing a lot right. We feel very good with where we're at, but we've shot ourselves in the foot with some penalties and a lack of focus at times that have kept us from scoring more.”
Helias escaped Porter Stadium with a 35-34 win in the season opener. Last week, Hannibal played up two classes at Jefferson City and lost 30-27.
St. Clair believes the Pirates aren't a typical 0-2 team.
“It plays on everyone's minds that we need to get a win,” the longtime coach said. “But if we were playing soft competition the first two weeks and were 2-0, everyone would talk about how great we are. We played two very good football teams — one of 'em two classes above us — and played good football.
“Four points separate us from being 2-0. I feel good about where we're at.”
Hannibal rushed for 300 yards on 41 carries last Friday night for an average of 7.3 yards per attempt. Damien French continued to emerge as the feature back with 139 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
“We ran the ball fairly well last week against a team that's a lot bigger and faster than we are,” St. Clair said. “We've just got to eliminate the little mistakes. We've got to get specific about our foot placement, our hand placement, how we're carrying out fakes in the backfield, and I think you'll see an efficient team when we get that all ironed out.”
Gabe Worthington completed 9 of 20 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown and an interception against the Jays. Will Whitaker was his top target with five catches for 68 yards and a score, and three other Pirates had receptions.
Bolivar presents a plethora of playmakers as well.
Liberators quarterback Hayden Burks has completed 39 of 61 passes for 504 yards and four touchdowns this year. Brock Pitts has reeled in 209 yards receiving and a pair of scores, while Cooper Hitchcock has 10 receptions for 166 yards and a score.
Seth Smith leads Bolivar with 148 yards rushing on the season.
Bolivar has averaged 252 yards passing and 111 yards rushing per game.
“They have big kids up front, speed at tailback and a quarterback that can throw,” St. Clair said. “They've got everything they need to be productive. The wideouts run good routes, and they're disciplined.”
St. Clair noted that stopping Bolivar's run game is a key to success.
The Pirates will try to make the Liberators' offense one-dimensional and force the visitors to beat them through the air.
“We've already adjusted to playing at a fast pace,” St. Clair said. “Now it's just a matter of getting better, controlling the ball and making them throw. We want to stop the run and make them throw the football.”
Safety Danny Colborn, who led Hannibal with six tackles last week, again figures to be in the middle of the Pirates secondary that should be tested for the third straight contest.
Chase Kirby and the defensive line will be tasked with breaking through the Liberators' strong offensive line, which is led by 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior Cooper Wallace.
“Our effort is there and we're playing with a lot of energy,” St. Clair said. “We've just got to make sure we're not giving up the big play.”