Never say never: Pirates trim four-touchdown deficit to one score, unable to finish comeback

Hannibal players react after being eliminated from the playoffs in a hard fought 70-61 loss during the class 4 State Quarterfinal game between the Hannibal Pirates and the Lutheran North Crusaders on Friday November 17, 2023 at Lutheran North High School in St. Louis County, MO  (Rick Ulreich, special to

The Hannibal football players react to their season-ending 70-61 loss to Lutheran North in the Class 4 state quarterfinals Friday night in St. Louis. | Photo courtesy Rick Ulreich

ST. LOUIS — The lead seemed insurmountable.

It nearly wasn’t.

Trailing Lutheran North 62-33 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter of Friday night’s Class 4 state quarterfinal, the Hannibal football team refused to lay down. Three touchdowns in a nine-minute span pulled the Pirates within 62-55 with 3:55 to play in regulation.

However, Crusaders quarterback DaKarri Hollis scored on a 40-yard run to make it a two-possession game with 2:03 remaining, and Lutheran North denied Hannibal a two-point conversion with 1:33 to go to preserve a 70-61 victory.

The Crusaders (11-1) advance to face Hillsboro in the state semifinals, while the Pirates (11-2) see their season end in the quarterfinals for the third time in the last four seasons.

With it comes the end of one of the greatest prep football careers in Missouri history.

Like his team, Hannibal senior all-purpose back Aneyas Williams wouldn’t go down without a fight.

The University of Notre Dame recruit kickstarted the comeback with a 4-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining in the third quarter. He caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Waylon Anders three minutes into the fourth quarter, and after the Pirates recovered the ensuing onside kick, Hannibal went on a 5-minute, 5-second drive that ended with Williams catching a 4-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.

Kane Wilson’s two-point conversion catch pulled Hannibal with 62-55 with 3:55 to play.

As was the case most of the night, the Pirates simply couldn’t stop the Crusaders from making big plays.

Hollis scored on a 40-yard touchdown run on third down to make it a two-possession game with 2:05 to go. Although Hannibal answered quickly, covering 58 yards in three plays and needing only 30 seconds to get a Williams 11-yard touchdown pass from Anders, the two-point conversion attempt failed and the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Lutheran North.

Williams finished with 192 yards rushing on 26 carries with four touchdowns, while catching six passes for 65 yards and three scores.

He finished his career with 148 career touchdowns, which is second most in Missouri State High School Activities Association history, and 937 career points, which also ranks second all-time.

The Pirates finished the night with 525 yards of total offense, including 457 yards on the ground. Junior running back Mike Ferreira racked up 168 yards on 25 carries, while Anders had 97 yards on 12 carries.

The problem was Hannibal couldn’t stop Lutheran North from making big plays.

The Pirates opened the game with a three-play, 68-yard drive that culminated with a 40-yard touchdown run by Williams. Two plays later, the Crusaders’ Martez Stephenson ripped off a 74-yard scoring run. Hannibal came right back with Williams capping a 60-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge.

But Lutheran North’s Michael Clark returned the ensuing kick 87 yards for a score.

Ferreira’s 10-yard run put Hannibal ahead again, only to see the lead last one play as Clark hauled in a 58-yard touchdown grab. The back-and-forth continued as Anders scored on a 50-yard run before Hollis converted an 8-yard scoring run for a 28-27 lead.

That’s when the game changed. Hannibal turned the ball over on downs after coming up a yard short on fourth down, and Lutheran North capitalized with Hollis scoring on a 21-yard run. After Hannibal punted, Lutheran North extended the halftime edge to 42-27 as Trey Bass caught a 78-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Crusaders scored on the first two possessions of the third quarter to boost the advantage to 27 points.

Hollis finished with 175 yards rushing and five touchdowns to go with 214 yards passing and two scores. The Crusaders had 554 yards of total offense and averaged 13.5 yards per play. The Pirates averaged 6.6 yards per play.

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