HANNIBAL — The Pirates have been dominating on both sides of the ball as Hannibal prepares for the Class 4 state football quarterfinal against West Plains on Friday at Porter Stadium.
Hannibal (11-0) powered its way to the Class 4 District 5 championship by defeating Warrenton 76-6 in the semifinal on Nov. 5 and Jefferson City 47-0 in the final on Nov. 12.
Pirates head coach Jeff Gschwender said the team has taken to the coaching and executing the game plan on the field.
“They are doing all of the work prior to the game,” Gschwender said. “Making sure they understand everything that’s going on and making sure they understand where the other offenses are wanting to go with the ball. Just by doing that before the game, it really slows it down when they get out to the field.”
Besides getting a defensive shutout last week against the Jays, the defense also contributed to the scoring when Aneyas Williams forced a fumble that Kane Wilson recovered and returned for a touchdown.
Williams also would score three touchdowns on offense, one rushing and two receiving.
The biggest plays from last week came from quarterback Courtland Watson. He ran three times for 94 yards and two touchdowns and went 3-for-5 passing for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
“Courtland can do a lot of things, not just throwing but running the ball,” Gschwender said. “With a lot of the option stuff we do, some things can either go one way or the other. If we are running an option play and those (holes) open up and those running backs will have a big game for us. If they close down on the running backs, then our quarterback is going to have a big game for us.”
Gschwender added that Watson is good at reading option plays.
“He’s always been able to run the football,” Gschwender said. “It was just a case of (Jefferson City) crashing down on those running backs and allowing him to run. Throwing the ball, he does what he does. He is extremely good at the play-action stuff and whenever he is on the move. Even with some of the one-step drop stuff he’s been doing really well.”
West Plains (10-1) is coming off a 42-7 win over McDonald County in the Class 4 District 6 championship game, winning the Zizzers second straight district crown.
The challenge for the Pirates will be slowing down Zizzers quarterback Dagen Kenslow, who thrown for 31 touchdowns this season.
“It’s just a case of really recognizing (what they are doing) because we are going to see some different formations that we haven’t seen before,” Gschwender said. “So it’s really recognizing some of those things and just getting lined up correctly and letting our kids play.”
The coaching staff has also been working on special teams drills during practice.
“That’s been a real big part of our success this year on how well the special teams has played,” Gschwender said. “Making sure that we understand what West Plains is wanting to do specialty wise and what they do across the board.”
Fans will need to purchase tickets for Friday’s Class 4 state quarterfinal game at Porter Stadium on the MSHSAA website. Tickets will not be sold at the gates.
Gschwender said Hannibal is trying to make Friday’s game against West Plains as routine as other home games earlier in the season.
“It is very nice,” Gschwender said. “Especially a quarterfinal game to have that crowd behind you to really get the kids fired up. On top of that is four-and-a-half to five hours away, so not having to take that bus trip down is really going to be nice. We get to stay with that normal Friday night routine.”