HANNIBAL, Mo. — Jefferson City Helias’ systematic control of Friday night’s season-opening football game against Hannibal was no accident.
And it might be a harbinger of how future opponents will try to silence the Pirates, who were beaten 31-21 in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 2,500-plus at Porter Stadium.
The best chance to derail Hannibal’s expected-to-be explosive offense is simple: Just don’t let the Pirates have the ball, specifically the highly touted Aneyas Williams, Hannibal’s talented junior all-purpose back who already has scholarship offers from Alabama, Ohio State and more than a dozen other college football bluebloods.
“In the third and fourth quarters, we just tried to play keep away,” Helias coach Chris Hentges said.
Hannibal managed just three offensive plays in the third quarter and 17 for the second half.
And regarding Williams?
“We had at least two pairs of eyes on him at all times — and he somehow still (scored three touchdowns),” Hentges said.
Although Hannibal never led in the game, the Pirates still had a puncher’s chance until freshman Helias kicker Nic Calvaruso booted a 37-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining to finally ice the verdict.
Hannibal coach Jeff Gschwender cut right to the chase afterward.
“Our defense just couldn’t get off the field,” he said. “(Helias) controlled the ball, especially in the second half. They converted way too many third-and-5s and third-and-7s. I think we’ll be fine. Helias is a very good team.
“We just have to work on cutting down our mistakes on both sides of the ball — and be able to get off the field defensively.”
Williams’ three touchdowns, which upped his career total to 71, came via a 1-yard run and 23-yard reception in the second quarter, plus a 19-yard burst in the fourth quarter that cut the Helias advantage to 28-21 with 7 minutes, 24 seconds to play. Helias then ate up nearly six minutes of the game clock before Calvaruso’s game-clinching field goal.
Williams may not have ended the game with his usual eye-popping statistics, but he turned in the single most impressive highlight when he soared in the air between two defenders to make his touchdown reception from sophomore quarterback Waylon Anders.
“(I don’t know how) he caught that pass,” Hentges said.
Williams’ touchdown catch extended his own school record. He now has 25 TD receptions for his career.
Hannibal senior Markahl Humphrey rushed for 147 yards and a 13.4 average per attempt. Humphrey, who ran for 227 yards as a junior, will be in more of a featured role this season with the added attention Williams will be drawing.
Williams finished with 53 yards and was held to a 3.8 average per carry. He caught a game-high seven passes for 43 yards.
Anders finished 12 for 19 for 70 yards in his debut as Hannibal quarterback.
Helias quarterback Drew Miller threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Korbin Fisher paced the Helias ground game with 95 yards.
WIlliams and Jack Fisher intercepted passes for Hannibal. Jack Parker also registered a game-best 10 tackles from his secondary position.
The Helias victory avenged a 54-20 loss to Hannibal a year ago and gives the Crusaders a 6-4 advantage over the Pirates in Hentges’ 10 years as coach.
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