Next man up is next man to shine in Hannibal football team’s district semifinal romp

Hannibal’s Aaron Daughtry (23) runs with the ball after intercepting a pass during the Pirates district semifinal game against Warrenton, Friday in Hannibal.  Mathew Kirby/Herald Whig-Courier Post

Hannibal sophomore safety Aaron Daughtery returns one of his three interceptions during Friday's Class 4 District 5 semifinal victory over Warrenton at Porter Stadium in Hannibal, Mo. | Photo courtesy Mathew Kirby

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Not even in his wildest dreams could Aaron Daughtery have ever envisioned what would unfold Friday night.

Never, ever, ever.

Daughtery, a sophomore defensive back making his first start in the Hannibal secondary, intercepted three passes — returning one for a touchdown — to help the Pirates overwhelm Warrenton 62-7 in the Class 4 District 5 semifinals at Porter Stadium.

“When I got to the field, I was nervous, especially at the start of the game,” said Daughtery, who was subbing for injured Aneyas Williams, the Pirates’ all-state junior running back/defensive back. Williams is likely out for the rest of the year with a broken collarbone he suffered in Hannibal’s regular-season finale Oct. 21 against Columbia Battle.

Daughtery is familiar with the Hannibal mantra, which emphasizes “the next man up.”

“The next guy has to step up, but … how nervous was I?” Daughtery asked. “Probably a 10 out of 10.”

That doesn’t mean Daughtery didn’t relish his moment in the spotlight, especially the interception he returned 55 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that capped the Pirates’ scoring.

“That felt good,” Daughtry admitted.

Daughtry’s three thefts in one game ties the Hannibal record, shared by Caleb Bieniek (2011), Mat Sims (209) and Quinton Patton (2001).

Hannibal coach Jeff Gschwender, whose club won its seventh straight after a 1-2 start, could not help but smile when asked about Daughtery’s performance.

“We have a lot of guys who can make plays,” Gschwender said. “They stepped up when the opportunity was there.”

“They,” as in plural.

Hannibal’s Michael Ferrera looks for running room against Warrenton during Friday night’s Class 4 District 5 semifinal at Porter Stadium in Hannibal, Mo. | Photo courtesy Mathew Kirby

A pair of Pirates running backs, senior Markahl Humphrey and sophomore Michael Ferreira, accounted for a combined five touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Waylon Anders, tight end Kane Wilson and wide receiver Haden Roberston also scored for Hannibal, which led 28-0 after one quarter and 48-7 at halftime.

“Nothing changes (because a player, in this case Williams, is out of the lineup),” Gschwender said.

Hannibal benefitted from a week off following the end of the regular season. The Pirates had earned a bye in the first round of district play.

“That week off helped everyone recover and get healthy,” Robertson said. “We were ready. It’s too early to start concentrating on basketball.”

The Pirates also used the extra time off to fine-tune their approach minus Williams, who had rushed for a team-high 1,362 yards and 27 touchdowns, plus hauling in a Hannibal-best 33 receptions and seven touchdown catches.

“That extra week off not only allowed us to heal, but work on technique,” said Gschwender, now 21-3 as Hannibal coach. “The time off absolutely helped. This coming week, we’ll just work on getting better.”

Humphrey, who scored on runs of 12 and 3 yards and a 14-yard reception, rushed for 84 yards on nine carries. Humphrey, who has scored 18 total touchdowns, now has 974 yards on the ground and is 26 yards shy of providing the Pirates with a second 1,000-yard rusher this season.

Only twice in Hannibal history have the Pirates had two 1,000-yard backs in the same year — 2015 with Shamar Griffith (2,467) and Jerry McBride (1,278) and 1995 with Lydell Williams (1,008) and Antonio McGruder (1,007).

Ferreira led Hannibal in rushing with 105 yards on 12 totes to earn the first 100-yard game of his career. Ferreira scored his two touchdowns on runs of 21 and 17 yards.

Hannibal is now 24-10 in the postseason after the MSHSAA adopted its current playoff format in 2012. Overall, Hannibal has won at least one postseason game 15 consecutive years.

The Pirates advance to the district championship at 7 p.m. next Friday. Hannibal will host Jefferson City (6-4), which eliminated Kirksville with a 43-21 victory. Hannibal downed Jefferson City 53-28 on September 2.

Hannibal’s explosive offense has now scored 40 or more points in 32 of its last 43 games, including eight of 10 this season. The Pirates are averaging 45.7 points per game, which is on pace to erase the school record of 43.5 in 2015.

At the helm of that offense remains first-year starter Anders, who against Warrenton completed 11 of 13 passes for 232 yards. That marked the fourth time this season he has completed 80 percent or more of his passes and the second time has thrown for more than 200 yards.

Anders has 17 touchdown passes for the year, which ties him with Gabe Worthington (2017) for the third-most in a season at Hannibal. At the top of the list is Courtland Watson (35 in 2021, 19 in 2020).

The Pirates, who downed Warrenton 76-6 last year, hold an 8-2 series advantage over the Warriors.

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