After losing several starters off of last year’s 10-2 team, Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown openly admitted that he really didn’t know what kind of a team the Pirates were going to have in 2012.
Of course he probably felt the same way after the team started off the season with three straight losses to California, Higginsville and Hannibal. However after righting the ship with four straight wins against Knob Noster, Mexico, Kirksville and Fulton to go 4-3, the Pirates also won six of their last eight games to finish the season at 6-5 overall and 4-2 in the North Central Missouri Conference.
“We looked at the schedule and said can we win this game, can we win that game,” Brown said. “After going 0-3 obviously you are a little bit worried but the minute we started winning some games you could see the change in the players. They could have throw it in and quit a little bit but they didn’t and won some games after that. I think we ended up winning six of our next eight games and that was a pretty good way to end and that is what we wanted to do obviously. We didn’t want it to end like it did against Centralia, but overall for the season and not knowing who would do what I think we did ok.”
Brown said the conference also had a lot more parity this year.
Of course you still had the Hannibal Pirates at the top at 6-0. But after that, the Moberly Spartans had one of their best seasons in recent years to finish at 5-1, followed by Boonville at 4-2, Marshall at 3-3, Fulton at 2-4, Kirksville at 1-5 and Mexico at 0-6.
Brown said Marshall got better with Coach Stockman getting hired there, and Fulton got better toward the end of the season.
“Mexico is a team that went 0-6 and Kirksville started off strong but then they kind of faded toward the end, so they were a lot better at the beginning of the year,” Brown said. “I thought the conference was a lot more even than it was last year. For us to beat Marshall on the last game of the year was a big deal to get us 4-2 in the conference and put them at 3-3.”
With six wins on the season also comes plenty of highlights. The win over Marshall, which extended the streak to five straight over the Owls, could have been a highlight along with beating Fulton in the opening round of the district playoffs. Finishing third in the NCMC would also have to rank up there.
However looking back at the season, Brown said the Marshall game was a good game because the team really played well that night and it was Senior Night.
“You could also say the middle part of the season after going 0-3 and then winning four in a row before we played Moberly,” Brown said. “Those four games were pretty convincing that we won, too. I thought those would be closer, but we came out and played pretty well.”
With that being said, the Pirates also had several low points during the 2012 season. The first and most obvious during the season had to be the start with three straight losses. Of course some could say the loss to Moberly because of the four-game win streak against the Spartans since joining the NCMC in 2008.
Brown said it had to be the first-three games.
“I think it was the first-three games because I thought we could either beat California or Higginsville but obviously look at California now,” Brown said. “They are a pretty good football team. We were right there because we had the ball inside the 10 against California and we didn’t do anything with it so that could have been a win. Higginsville could have been a little bit closer and they have been blowing people out and we played pretty well against them.”
Boonville also put up some pretty good numbers throughout the season. While averaging 24.36 points per game, the Pirates also closed out the season with 246.4 yards rushing per game and another 68.5 yards passing for an average of 314.9 yards of total offense per game.
Of course a lot of those yards came during the middle of the season during the four-game win streak, as Boonville outscored its opponent 150-60 during that stretch. Meanwhile during the three-game skid, the Pirates were outscored 79-19.
“I think we struggled at the beginning of the year and then we kind of found what we were doing towards the middle of the year and we started racking up some yards at some points,” Brown said. “It also takes a little time to grow and build continuity and that’s the big thing, especially on the line. We had three guys back but you just have to start feeling each other out. We also had a new quarterback with Francis and Oser going in there and getting playing time. I think they gave us a little bit of an edge. Everybody was kind of feeling out their place and and then we had to find out what we could do with who and where. Then, during the middle of the season, we kind of kicked it in to gear a little bit.”
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The defense also stepped up its games throughout the season. Aside from the loss to Hannibal 41-12, Boonville never gave up more than 28 points in a single game for the rest of the season. Opponents also had a tougher time scoring against Boonville while averaging only 19.72 points per game.
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Nonetheless, Brown said the pass defense was a little subject, especially with the guys back there.
“I thought we should have been better,” Brown said. “I thought the defense was able to keep us in ballgames and that is what you ask for; not to give up big plays. We really didn’t give up big plays. People drove on us a little bit but we had that philosophy of bend but don’t break.”
With five starters returning on both sides of the ball next year, Brown said it’s basically the same players that played on both sides of the ball this season.
Although Brown wouldn’t predict how the team would finish in 2013, he said the Pirates have potential but the offensive line is the biggest question.
“That’s where we will have to fill in but that’s why we got all of those guys some reps like Brett Kenney, Andrew Broyhill and Grady Kay because you are only going to have one true starter back in Nolan Murray,” Brown said. “Skill-wise and linebacker-wise we will be ok. We will also be fine at quarterback because Francis is going to be better than he was this year.”
Brown also knows that his numbers aren’t quite where they should be for a Class 3 program. While the Panthers had 84 players listed on the roster for last week’s district playoffs, the Pirates had only 29 on the sidelines for the game but finished the season with 36.
“That’s three more than we had last year,” Brown said. “We don’t have a lot of male athletes really. Soccer doesn’t have many and nobody is playing anything. I am a numbers guy and I like a lot of kids out there.”
All in all, Brown said with the guys coming back the Pirates finished the season about where he thought they would. He said he thought they would be competitive and that’s what they were.
“The Hannibal game is the one that got away but other than that nobody blew us out so that is what you are looking for and that is what you want,” Brown said. “It’s pretty much what we thought. The record is pretty close once you look at it. One game is a three-game swing. You win one more than you are 7-3 and three games over .500 instead of one.”
Offensively for the season, the Pirates finished with 2,710 yards rushing and another 753 passing for a total of 3,463 yards. Individually, senior Kelsey Callaway led the Pirates in rushing with 181 carries for 1,228 yards and a total of 19 touchdowns. Meanwhile, at the quarterback position, senior Jared Oser completed 34 of 61 passes for 456 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. As for Francis, he completed 21 of 53 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and four picks. As for receiving yards, senior Damario Walker hauled in a team-high 34 catches for 515 yards and three touchdowns while Gus Kemp had eight catches for 109 yards and one score.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Jalen Poindexter finished tops on the team in tackles with 150. While accumulating 97 solo stops during the season, Poindexter also had 53 assisted tackles, 17 tackles for losses, two sacks and three forced fumbles. Oser had a total of 94 tackles, with 56 solo stops and 38 assisted tackles along with a team-high six sacks. Walker and Kemp also tied for the team with four interceptions while senior Jay Barnhart finished with a team-high five fumble recoveries.