Friday night lights inching closer

File photo of Pirates quarterback Courtland Watson throws a pass as he is being pressured by a Rams defender in the Class 4 state quarterfinal game on Nov. 21, 2020 at Porter Stadium.

As hard as it is to imagine in the dog days of summer, the opening of the high school football season is only about six weeks away.

Teams will soon be practicing in the summer heat trying to improve upon all aspects of the game and get a leg up on the competition.

As it gets closer to the kickoff of the high school football season on Aug. 27, the Courier-Post will have team previews, practice photos and other news regarding the four teams in our coverage area.

Here is a quick look at all four area teams below:

Hannibal Pirates

2020 Record: 8-3

Head Coach: Jeff Gschwender

Overview: Gschwender enters his first season as Hannibal’s head coach after serving as the Pirates offensive coordinator for the previous four seasons. He inherits a talented team that is returning 16 starters from last year’s team.

Hannibal advanced to the Class 4 state tournament last season, falling to MICDS 48-34 in the quarterfinals.

Sophomore Aneyas Williams made an immediate impact as a freshman last season and was named to the First Team All-District Team as an all-purpose player. He figures to have a more prominent role this season.

The Pirates also will return First Team All-District offensive lineman Caden Salle and Kanye Washington, giving Hannibal a solid protection for Second Team All-District quarterback Courtland Watson.

Hannibal will have a solid defensive core returning led by safety Kaiser Greenwell and defensive lineman Brady Zimmerman.

2021 Schedule

Aug. 27 — at Helias

Sept. 3 — Jefferson City

Sept. 10 — at Ft. Zumwalt West

Sept. 17 — Fulton

Sept. 24 — at Mexico

Oct. 1 — Kirksville

Oct. 8 — at Moberly

Oct. 15 — Marshall

Oct. 22 — at Battle

Palmyra Panthers

2020 Record: 12-1

Head Coach: Kevin Miles

Overview: Palmyra steamrolled its way through the 2020 season, often putting up huge leads by halftime. It took the Panthers to the Class 2 state semifinals, were Palmyra fell to St. Pius X (Kansas City) 31-14.

The 2021 Panthers will look a lot different, with key players such as Brody Lehenbauer, Weston King, Abe Haerr, Zane Meyers and Josh Lickfield graduating in 2020.

One player who figures to have a bigger role on the 2021 team is Hayes Miller, a speedy player who emerged as a playmaker last season.

Landyn Smith made an impact on both sides of the ball in 2020 and will be counted on as one of the senior leaders of Palmyra’s defense this season. He also kicked a last-second field goal to give the Panthers a 15-14 win over conference rival Clark County on Oct. 2.

2021 Schedule

Aug. 27 — Hallsville

Sept. 3 — Bowling Green

Sept. 10 — at Macon

Sept. 17 — Brookfield

Sept. 24 — at Monroe City

Oct. 1 — Clark County

Oct. 8 — at Highland

Oct. 15 — South Shelby

Oct. 22 — at Centralia

Monroe City Panthers

2020 Record: 8-3

Head Coach: David Kirby

Overview: All in all, the Panthers had a pretty successful season in 2020. Monroe City advanced all the way to the Class 2 District 6 title game before falling to archrival Palmyra 26-22.

Palmyra proved to be a roadblock, defeating Monroe City twice last season by a total of 14 points in two close games. Monroe City defeated every other team they faced with the exception of being shut out by Centralia 18-0 in the season’s fourth week.

Unlike Palmyra, Monroe City lost few players from last year’s squad, besides top receiver Logan Buhlig.

The Panthers will return quarterback Kyle Hays, as well as a three-headed monster of running backs in Joshua Talton, Ceaton Pennewell and Kelson Painter. Hays will also have receivers Josiah Talton and Deion White in his disposal, giving Monroe City a well-balanced offense.

Monroe City returns strong defensive players such as Pennewell at linebacker, defensive lineman Bo Patterson and defensive back Waylon DeGrave.

2021 Schedule

Aug. 27 — at St. Pius X (Festus)

Sept. 3 — at Winfield

Sept. 10 — South Shelby

Sept. 17 — at Centralia

Sept. 24 — Palmyra

Oct. 1 — at Brookfield

Oct. 8 — Macon

Oct. 15 — Clark County

Oct. 22 — at Highland

Mark Twain Tigers

2020 Record: 5-6

Head Coach: Austin Leake

Overview: Leake returns as a head coach to the school he once played high school football at. He looks to help take the Tigers to the next step after Mark Twain surged late last season.

The Tigers went on a three-game winning streak before dropping the Class 1 District 2 title game to South Callaway 26-6.

Mark Twain only graduated two seniors from last year’s team, Evan Torrence and Devin Whaley. Torrence ran for seven rushing touchdowns during Mark Twain’s postseason run last year.

The Tigers will rely on offensive spark this season from quarterback Payton Hawkins and running backs Landon Moss and Lakoda Preston.

2021 Schedule

Aug. 27 — South Callaway

Sept. 3 — at TDW Prep Academy

Sept. 10 — at Van-Far

Sept. 17 — Missouri Military Academy

Sept. 24 — Bowling Green

Oct. 1 — at Wright City

Oct. 8 — Montgomery County

Oct. 15 — North Callaway

Oct. 22 — at Louisiana

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