Humphrey, Pirates grind up Jays with potent rushing attack in district title victory

Hannibal senior running back Marshal Humphrey (33) runs by everyone for a touchdown during the Pirates district championship game against Jefferson City, Friday in Hannibal.  Mathew Kirby/Herald Whig-Courier Post

Hannibal senior running back Markahl Humphrey runs away from the Jefferson City defense during Friday night's Class 4 District 5 championship game at Porter Stadium in Hannibal, Mo. | Photo courtesy Mathew Kirby

HANNIBAL, Mo. — The Hannibal football team outscored Jefferson City — and the thermometer — on a frosty Friday night at E.A. Porter Stadium.

The Pirates’ potent run-first-and-foremost offense eventually wore down the Jays on an evening when the temperature never broke 30 degrees and ended with a 42-21 Class 4 District 5 championship victory.

Senior Markahl Humphrey excelled for a second straight week in the role of Hannibal’s No. 1 running back, rushing for 200 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Humphrey has gained 285 yards and scored six touchdowns since a shoulder injury shelved all-state teammate Aneyas Williams, who had accounted for 2,020 all-purpose yards and 34 touchdowns.

“Markahl is a great player,” praised Hannibal’s sophomore quarterback, Waylon Anders, who only had to throw the ball seven times against the Jays. “Markahl runs as hard as he can every time he touches the ball. We just stuck to the run. It was working well, and we got the job done.”

Humphrey scored on first-half bursts of 9, 47 and 2 yards, helping power the Pirates to a 35-21 advantage by intermission.

Humphrey, who admitted he had some extra inspiration heading into the game, churned for 175 yards in the first half.

“We knew (Jefferson City) had been talking a lot of trash about us and how we weren’t nothing without Aneyas,” Humphrey said. “We were able to take charge during the second quarter.”

Hannibal reached the end zone on its first six possessions, and was likely headed for a seventh straight touchdown in the third quarter, only to be stopped by a fumble deep in Jefferson City territory.

The Pirates (9-2), who won their eighth straight, advance to the quarterfinals against the West Plains Zizzers (9-3), who eliminated the Bolivar Liberators (5-7) on Friday night 45-0. Hannibal ousted West Plains in last year’s postseason 35-26.

The Hannibal-West Plains game will be played at 7 p.m. Friday in West Plains.

Hannibal has reached the quarterfinals three straight years and 10 times in school history. Six of those accomplishments have come since 2015.

Hannibal is 42-25 all-time in the postseason and 25-10 since 2012 when the MSHSAA adopted its current format. The Pirates picked up their second win of the season over Jefferson City, having downed the Jays 53-28 in Week 2. Hannibal has won four in a row against Jefferson City, but the Jays still lead the all-time series 37-14.

“This game was similar to the first time we played them this year,” Hannibal coach Jeff Gschwender said. “We knew what to expect and were able to finish them off in the second half.”

Gschwender said the Pirates’ strong reliance on the running game was no major shift in philosophy, even though Hannibal’s seven pass attempts were its second fewest of the season.

“We had a lot of passing schemes ready, but the run was working,” Gschwender said.

The Pirates’ offensive line of Ryan Ross, Noah Young, Xxavion Washington, Briley Cunningham and Austin Wilhoit spent most of the night opening holes for Humphrey, Michael Ferreira and Cody Culp, who gained the majority of Hannibal’s 266 rushing yards.

Humphrey, who is now averaging 8.2 yards per carry, boosted his season rushing total to 1,174 yards.

Hannibal’s other touchdowns came via an 11-yard scramble by Anders, a 2-yard run from Culp and a 43-yard pass to Haden Robertson from Anders. The Anders-to-Robertson touchdown throw was arguably a backbreaker for Jefferson City, coming with a little more than a minute to play in the first half.

Anders’ touchdown pass was the 18th of the season. Only Courtland Watson (35 in 2021, 19 in 2020) has thrown more touchdown passes in a season at Hannibal.

Anders has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 10 of Hannibal’s 11 games. His 1,642 yards passing are the third most in a season at Hannibal, trailing only Watson (1,988 in 2021) and Gabe Worthington (1,699 in 2018).

Defensively, Hannibal was spurred by a pair of quarterback sacks from Owen Andrews and an interception by Robertson. Jack Parker was in on 10 tackles, with Ashton Watts and Dylan Bock involved in nine apiece.

Jefferson City was limited to 14 net rushing yards and 65 total yards in the second half.

“We made some minor changes at halftime, but (nothing major),” Gschwender said.

The 21 points Jefferson City scored represented its second-lowest output of the season. The Jays had averaged 49.3 points per game over their previous three starts.

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