The Hannibal football team scored four touchdowns in the second quarter of a 42-6 conference victory at Mexico on Friday night.
To appreciate a longtime rival, Mexico honored Hannibal head football coach Mark St. Clair prior to Friday night’s North Central Missouri Conference matchup to wish him well in his impending retirement.
The Pirates continued to make St. Clair’s night a special one with a 42-6 victory.
Hannibal held firm on fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line on the first drive of the game, gaining momentum the visitors rode to victory in their league opener.
“We’ve got a veteran football team and that showed on the field,” St. Clair said. “The Mexico kids played hard, but they’ve got a lot of young kids out there. They gave us fits, especially early. They put together some drives and had some long runs, but I was proud of our kids for how they played down around the goal line. It’s hard to stop any team on that part of that field, especially one as good as Mexico, and we stopped them twice down there.”
Dante Reading reached the end zone on a 1-yard run to open the scoring for Hannibal with 3 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Gabe Worthington then scored from nine yards out eight seconds into the second quarter.
The Bulldogs’ answer to all this mayhem came from Dillon Nichols, and it began when he took a handoff at his own 40 and took it to the Hannibal 34-yard line. Several plays later on third-and-3 Nichols got the ball again and broke wide for a 27-yard touchdown to pull within 14-6.
“We knew Mexico was going to run the football,” St. Clair said. “They’re a downhill-running team, and we are too. Coach (Steve) Haag turned this team around as soon as he got here by making kids tough, running the ball and playing hard-nosed defense. We knew that’s what we were going to get and we knew we had to at least try and slow down the run so they didn’t put together extended drives.”
It was all Pirates after that as Worthington connected on passes to Will Whitaker of 26 and 29 yards to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by JaQuez McGruder.
Worthington scored on a 3-yard touchdown dive, and McGruder hit paydirt from the 1-yard line with 21 ticks left in the first half to send the game into intermission with the Pirates leading 35-6.
Damien French ran for a 23-yard touchdown in the third for the final points of the night.
Hannibal amassed 438 yards of offense — including 320 yards rushing on 42 carries. Worthington rushed nine times for 99 yards. McGruder had 14 carries for 107 yards, while French ran 11 times for 88 yards.
Worthington completed 5 of 8 passes for 118 yards. Whitaker totaled three catches for 76 yards, and Dezi Jones had two catches for 42 yards.
“Hannibal’s offense is tough, and we kind of mirror that stuff," Haag said. "It didn’t work out. They were the better team, but … it’s a good gauge for us. We get to see what a good football team is like.”
Hannibal forced four turnovers on downs and made eight tackles for loss. Braden Schlueter and Jordan Schafer paced the Pirates defense with seven tackles a piece.
Mexico managed just 191 yards of offense and nine first downs compared to Hannibal's 22.
The Pirates (2-2, 1-0 NCMC) are scheduled to host Kirksville next Friday night.