Pirates, Williams make quick work of another opponent, waltz into district semifinals

Hannibal’s Kane Wilson (24) tackles St. Charles’ Ezequiel Lopez (9) during the Hannibal Pirates district game against the St. Charles Pirates, Friday in Hannibal.  Mathew Kirby (Herald WhigCourier Post)

Hannibal’s Kane Wilson gets up after tackling St. Charles’ Ezequiel Lopez during the first half of Friday night’s Class 4 District 4 quarterfinal at Port Stadium in Hannibal, Mo. | Mathew Kirby photo

HANNIBAL, Mo. — On the surface, Hannibal’s most recent blowout football victory was little more than another Friday night stroll on the plastic grass of Porter Stadium.

The potent Pirates’ steamroller-like offense was its usual productive self, and so was Hannibal’s stifling defense. By midway through the second quarter, an overmatched St. Charles team was left looking forward to little more than the running clock that awaited in the second half.

For Aneyas Williams, however, the 64-12 victory in the Class 4 District 4 quarterfinals had a deeper impact. The victory brought him one step closer to the end of what has been a brilliant four years at Hannibal, and he realizes that ending, no matter when it comes in the approaching weeks, is near.

“At this point (in my career), each game is a blessing,” said Williams, the Pirates’ versatile senior wideout/running back who is the only player in area history to stockpile more than 3,000 yards in both rushing and receiving. 

Oh, and then there are those 133 career touchdowns, too.

Sure, Williams said he is looking forward to next fall as a member of the storied University of Notre Dame program in South Bend, Ind., but make no mistake — he is relishing every minute that he has left as a high school player.

It’s all starting to sink in for Williams, one of the nation’s premier prep all-purpose backs, who put on a four-touchdown show for the 650 fans who turned out for Friday’s game. The relatively low turnout likely resulted from not only a rainy and chilly forecast, but the game being expected to be rather top heavy in favor of the Pirates (9-1).

Williams remains steadfast in keeping his focus on this year’s Hannibal team and its goal to return to the state championship game it reached in 2021. The Pirates fell short a year ago, having to play the final three games minus Williams, who was lost to injury near the end of the regular season. He wants to cap his career with an exclamation point.

“I’m excited for our seniors,” Williams said. “We all wanted to start fast (against St. Charles), and put them away early.”

And that the Pirates did.

Williams scored three of his four touchdowns in the first half when Hannibal built a 51-6 lead. 

“I thought we took the game away from them early,” Hannibal coach Jeff Gschwender said.

At no point were the Pirates ever challenged by St. Charles, which ended its season 1-9. Hannibal has won at least one district game for 16 consecutive years and is 26-11 since the current postseason format was adopted in 2012.

Five different players scored for Hannibal, which won its ninth straight this season and increased its winning streak at home to 11. The Pirates have won 18 of their last 19 at Porter Stadium, dating to late in the 2021 season.

“We just keep trying to do what we have been doing,” said Dorian Turner, a senior defensive back.

So many of the Hannibal games have been such runaways — five of the last seven have had a running clock throughout the second half — that practices are where some of the best competition has been found.

“We try and carry that over into the games,” Turner said.

Gschwender admits that Pirates’ practices can get a little feisty. 

“We lose a lot of playing time for our guys (with the running-clock games),” he said. “A lot of guys might worry about losing stats because of those running-clock games, but our guys don’t. Our guys are very unselfish.

“We might get up early in a game, but we emphasize keeping the pedal down when we’re ahead.” 

Williams’ touchdowns came on a 49-yard punt return, a 5-yard run and a pair of scoring passes (17 and 46 yards) from junior quarterback Waylon Anders. 

Junior running back Mike Ferreira continued his torrid pace, scoring twice on runs of 18 and 10 yards, plus racking up a career-best 220 yards on the ground — 197 in the first half. Ferreira now sits at 1,325 yards for the season.

Anders scored on a 1-yard run and added a third touchdown pass to senior tight end Kane Wilson covering 16 yards. Senior running back Cody Culp rounded out the Pirates scoring with a 5-yard run.

Anders’ three touchdown passes give him 22 for the season, good for the second-highest mark in Hannibal history. Only Courtland Watson threw more (35) in 2021.

Anders is also second in career passing yards (3,111), trailing Watson (4,825).

Hannibal, which has scored four or more touchdowns in nine straight games, is averaging 54.3 points per game over its last seven contests and surrendering just 6.7.

St. Charles was the first opponent to score more than eight points against Hannibal since the Pirates defeated Troy 34-28 in week three of the season. 

“We’ve got some things to clean up, but I could not be more proud of our defense,” Gschwender said.

Sophomore linebacker Kaisen McAfee led Hannibal’s defense with five tackles and a blocked punt. Nine different players had tackles for minus yardage. The Pirates held St. Charles to minus-8 yards rushing and 11 yards of net offense.

Hannibal plays at Wentzville Holt (7-3) at 7 p.m. next Friday in the district semifinals. Holt routed Mexico 57-6 on Friday night.

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