Pirates slosh way to their first victory

Posted: Sep. 8, 2018 12:01 am

The steady rain never relented, but neither did the Hannibal football team during a 49-12 win over Bolivar at Porter Stadium on Friday.

Hannibal sloshed to touchdowns on its first seven possessions and amassed 440 yards of total offense to secure its first win of the season.

Damien French and JaQuez McGruder each scored three times out of the backfield during the downpour. 

"We got away from the option a little bit and spent more time on power because of the conditions," Hannibal coach Mark St. Clair said. "The weather worked in our favor a little bit. But give credit to our offensive line. They were creating holes and our backs were hitting those holes in a hurry. It’s tough to stop a team that does that. 

"The great thing about our offense is that it doesn’t matter really what the conditions are."

The wet ball presented difficulties for the pass-oriented Liberators.

The Pirates surrendered just 67 yards in the first half, limiting the visitors to a pair of first downs. Bolivar entered the night averaging 252 yards passing per game but was held to two completions for 11 yards over the first 24 minutes.

French didn’t mind the rain one bit. 

The sophomore burst through the left side of the line for a 35-yard touchdown to cap a 7-play, 63-yard drive to open the game with authority.

"My goal was to run hard and I knew my linemen were going to do the work up front," he said. "The field was slick, but once you get running you don’t feel anything. We all wanted our first win."

Bolivar threatened to tie the score on its first possession. Seth Smith broke free down the sideline for a 54-yard run, but Hannibal senior Will Whitaker caught up to make the tackle at the 1-yard line.

"It was my fault to begin with so I knew when he got by me it was on me," Whitaker said. "That motivated me to go down the field and not let him score on our team. We didn’t want them to get any momentum. We made a good stand there." 

Hannibal kept the Liberators out of the end zone. On fourth-and-goal, Dante Reading applied pressure on quarterback Hayden Burks, and after a short completion, Jordan Schafer made a tackle three yards from the goal line.

The stone-wall stop set the tone for the contest.

Deep in its own territory, Hannibal picked up where it left off offensively, marching 97 yards on 10 plays with French again barreling through for a 13-yard score with 26 seconds left in the first quarter. 

Hannibal quarterback Gabe Worthington found tight end Lawson Rickey for a 43-yard completion on third-and-5 to keep the scoring drive alive. 

Rickey also reeled in a 13-yard reception to convert a third down in the second quarter as Hannibal was 7 for 7 on third downs in the first half.

"Those catches on third down were huge, particularly that first one," St. Clair said. "You’ve got to give credit to Gabe for throwing a good ball and Lawson for going to get it."

The Pirates held firm for a three-and-out on defense to force a Bolivar punt early in the second quarter.

The hosts controlled time of possession.

The Liberators ran just 34 plays for the game to Hannibal’s 57.

French found the end zone for a third time from 11 yards out with 5:40 remaining in the first half.

Whitaker came down with an interception on the next play from scrimmage to set Hannibal up at the Bolivar 32.

Six plays and 32 yards later McGruder punched in a 6-yard touchdown to make it 28-0.

A Daylan Reading sack on third down thwarted the Liberators’ next drive, and McGruder rumbled to the end zone again from five yards out to make it 35-0 at halftime.

A turbo clock accelerated the second half of the lopsided affair.

Bolivar lost 18 yards on its initial drive of the second half. Adriec Brumbaugh had a sack to back the visitors up, and Daylan Reading tackled the Bolivar punter after a muffed snap on fourth down for a turnover on downs. 

McGruder needed just one play to run 18 yards to make it 42-0 with 8:07 remaining in the third period.

Burks connected with Brock Pitts for a 32-yard touchdown to pull Bolivar to within 42-6 midway through the third.

Worthington ran 44 yards on a QB keeper to make it 49-6 with 3:17 left in the third before Hannibal pulled a majority of its starters.

Hannibal’s Vernell Hawkins recovered a fumble on the final play of the third quarter. 

A 3-yard Bolivar touchdown run by Logan Hawk accounted for the only points in the final period.

For the game, Worthington completed 3 of 4 passes for 85 yards and added 56 more on the ground. McGruder rushed 27 times for 145 yards, while French gained 86 yards on just eight carries for an average of 10.8 yards per pop.

Dezi Jones made one catch for 30 yards. The first-year high school player also booted three kickoffs for touchbacks and converted all seven extra points.

Schafer led Hannibal with seven tackles in the victory.


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