The Boonville Pirates football team will face another daunting task Friday night when they host the Class 4 Hannibal Pirates at Gene Reagan field at the BHS Sports Complex.
While facing the state-ranked California Pintos in Week 1 and Higginsville Huskers last week, the Pirates have now faced two teams still undefeated for the 2013 season.
Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown says it doesn’t get any easier this week against Hannibal. Although Hannibal holds a 4-1 advantage against Boonville since 2008, the Pirates are the only team during that span to hand Hannibal a loss in the North Central Missouri Conference.
Of course while the Pirates fell last week against the Higginsville Huskers 15-0, the Hannibal Pirates went on the road to beat first-year program Battle High School out of Columbia by a score of 42-27.
In Week 1, Hannibal fell to Quincy Notre Dame out of Illinois by a score of 17-6.
Hannibal Coach Mark St. Clair said his team was much improved over Week 1.
“We didn’t play well against Quincy,” St. Clair said. “We really didn’t play with the kind of enthusiasm and effort it’s going to take to beat a good football team, therefore, we got beat.”
In the game last week against Battle, St. Clair said the Pirates played with better effort and heart.
While returning six players on both sides of the ball this season, St. Clair said the Pirates have a little bit of size but it’s hard to compare this year’s team to teams in the past. He said last year’s 10-2 team was quick but not very big, whereas, in year’s past the Pirates have been hard-nosed and not very fast.
“We have some back from last year but I wouldn’t call them experienced,” St. Clair said of this year’s team. “We have several starters back but we also have a mix of young kids playing.”
In the game last week against Battle, the Pirates led 20-13 at the half and then outscored the Spartans 22-14 in the second half for the victory.
Of course the game was a lot closer than the final score. While fleet-footed running back Mitchell Nichols left the game in the first half due to an ankle injury, freshman Shamar Griffith stepped in to give the Pirates a lift while scoring on an 8-yard run with 47 seconds left in the third quarter to pull Hannibal to within one at 27-26. Then, after regaining possession, Hannibal struck again when junior Austin Kirby hit sophomore  Jerry McBride on a 10-yard scoring strike with 8:10 remaining in the game.
Hannibal scored on a two-point conversion after that to go up 34-27.
The Pirates would add another touchdown with 1:52 left on a 9-yard touchdown run by McBride.
Battle out-gained Hannibal 467-239.
As for Nichols, he was held to 26 yards on eight carries. Griffith, meanwhile, led the Pirates with 78 yards on 11 carries. Kirby completed 5 of 7 passes for 68 yards.
Brown said Hannibal is the same old team. He said they run the same stuff they have always run.
“Their line is good, they are big up front, the backs are quick and the quarterback is good,” Brown said. “They run a little counter and a little trap. They will boot out a little bit and throw it a couple of times, so it’s the same old Hannibal.
“We just have to stand up to them because they are just going to mash it and try to pound you. You have to be able to stand up and not get gashed for big plays. We just need to make them drive it down the field, but the big thing is to be able to tackle and not give up the big plays for them because if they get in the open field, they have quick backs.”
Although the Pirates have given up 44 points in two games, Brown said Hannibal’s defense is the same. He said they just lineup and say well if you are better than us beat us, if not we are going to beat you.
“We just have to sustain drives and be able to finish drives,” Brown said. “If we are able to run the ball and pass the ball like we did against Higginsville, that would help tremendously but we have to be able to finish drives and actually score points, which we haven’t done yet.”
In the game last week against the Huskers, the Pirates had their chances in the first half but stalled on both drives inside Higginsville’s 20-yard line. The Huskers, meanwhile, scored with 41 seconds left in the first half and added a two-point conversion to go up 8-0.
Higginsville would also add a touchdown in the third quarter after faking a punt on fourth and long.
According to Boonville defensive coordinator Kyle Newham, the Huskers have scored all but one touchdown the last-two years on fourth down.
“We had our opportunities,” Brown said of the game against Higginsville. “We played a lot better, especially on defense. Offensively, we had some mistakes when we drove the ball.”
We got yards and got inside the redzone twice but you have to be able to put it away and you have to smell blood in the water. We were unable to finish off the drive which you have to be able to do. We played better but we have to keep building.”
Despite the final score, the Pirates battled the Huskers, who finished 12-1 last year, almost even with nine first downs. Boonville also had 101 yards rushing and another 118 passing for a total of 219. As for Higginsville, they had 136 yards rushing and another 90 passing for a total of 226.
As for individual performances, senior quarterback Jacob Francis led the Pirates in both rushing and passing last week with 12 carries for 31 yards and 15 of 24 passing for a total of 118 yards with one interception. Junior Josh Judd, meanwhile, led the team with five catches for 48 yards while Tyler Peterson hauled in seven catches for 43 yards.
On the defensive side of the football, the Pirates had three players finish the game with double-digit tackles. Senior Tyler Peterson, who had 17 tackles in the season opener against California, finished the game against Higginsville with six solos and six assists. Peterson now has 17 solo stops and 12 assisted tackles.
Sophomore linebacker Jordan Weaver also finished the game with 12 tackles, with eight solo stops and four assisted tackles. Weaver also had one sack. Junior Austin Henderson, meanwhile, was the only other player with double-figure tackles with nine solo stops and two assisted tackles.
St. Clair said offensively the Pirates look like the Boonville team of the past. He said the quarterback is talented and they are going to try and run the ball but they can also throw it.
“They also have some dangerous wideouts,” St. Clair said. “It looks like the Boonville team of the past and we will have to defend the entire field and not let them get any yards.”
As for Boonville’s defense, St. Clair said it’s usually a big part of their game. He said they have always been good at defense.
“They run well and always have good linebackers and down technique, so we will just have to find a way to move the ball. We have to mix it up and we have to be able to put up first downs and find out spots to have big plays.”
Having won four out of the last five games against Boonville, including last year’s 41-12 victory, St. Clair said the fact of the matter is the Pirates have lost only one conference game since 2007 and that was to Boonville. He said if anybody thinks that they are not getting their respect, they are badly mistaken.
“Coach Brown does a good job down there,” St. Clair said. “They are going to be ready to play and they are always solid. We have a great deal of respect for their coaching staff and their kids”
St. Clair said he is also tired of giving up points. He said he doesn’t know how the game will play out but the Pirates have to get better.
Although Boonville will be heavy underdogs against Hannibal, Brown said games like this make you better.
“When you get done playing hopefully you are a better football team for it,” Brown said. “We just have to get better this game and just improve like we did last week and just keep getting better every week and stay on track. We moved the ball pretty well against California and Higginsville but we just ran out of gas. Hopefully this week, we can have a little more success and sustain drives. If you look at it at the same point last year, we were only a touchdown better. Actually, we were the same because we scored seven points in the first-two ballgames last year. That says something about the quality of the opponents as well.”
In the Class 3 District 6 standings, the Pirates still have some work to do after losing last week against Higginsville.
After two games, Chillicothe stands at 2-0 with 58 points while California is second at 2-0 with 48 points and Fulton third at 2-0 with 38.5 points. Centralia and Macon, meanwhile, are currently 1-1 with 35 points, followed by Southern Boone at 1-1 with 25.5 points, Boonville seventh at 0-2 with 17 points and Missouri Military Academy at 0-1 with 7 points.