Pirates overwhelm Jays in district championship, roll into state quarterfinals


Hannibal quarterback Courtland Watson scores a touchdown during the Pirates' Class 4 District 5 championship game against the Jefferson City Jays on Friday night at Porter Stadium in Hannibal, Mo. Photo courtesy Mathew Kirby

HANNIBAL, Mo. — On the surface, the Hannibal football team’s 47-0 victory over Jefferson City would seem to indicate a rather lopsided verdict.

And it was exactly that — and more. So very much more.

Hannibal’s quicksilver-like offense, coupled with a defense that is often suffocating, were both monopolizing from the outset. The Pirates left little doubt about what the outcome would be in this Class 4 District 5 championship game played at E.A. Porter Field on a Friday night when the wind-chill factor dipped into the low 20s.

The Pirates’ district title victory reached beyond lopsided. It was overwhelming.

The Pirates (11-0) blew to a 41-0 halftime lead and then downshifted into second gear during a running-clock second half.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” said first-year Hannibal coach Jeff Gschwender, whose team advances to the state quarterfinals to face West Plains (11-1), which defeated McDonald County 42-7 Friday night. “We have a lot of kids who can do a lot of things.”

Sophomore running back Aneyas Williams and senior quarterback Courtland Watson are two of those.

Williams was his typical explosive self, scoring four touchdowns and accounting for 208 combined rushing and receiving yards on just 11 overall touches. He scored on a 76-yard run and caught two touchdown passes from Watson covering 67 and 25 yards. Williams capped his night with a 65-yard punt return, his second runback of the year for a touchdown.

Williams now has 37 touchdowns for the season, two shy of Shamar Griffith’s record 39 in 2015. 

Watson, too, was his usual spectacular self, reaching the end zone on touchdown runs of 68 and 23 yards, plus throwing the two scoring passes to Williams. Watson has now tossed 27 touchdown passes.

Williams and Watson triggered Hannibal’s latest offensive outburst, one that gave the Pirates a school record for points scored in a season. Hannibal has registered 569 points, exceeding the 2015 Pirates’ total of 566. 

Hannibal, which is averaging 51.7 points per game and has scored 83 touchdowns, has not been held to less than 40 points.

“(The scoring record) is not that important,” said Gschwender, pointing to a bigger picture. “We’re just playing to win.”

Watson, however, took great satisfaction in the scoring record, but not for a reason that would be expected from an offensive player.

“It feels good to score a lot of points because it helps take the pressure off of our defense,” Watson said. “We like to try and hop on an opponent early. It makes it easier the rest of the game.”

Hannibal’s other score was compliments of the defense — a 15-yard scoop-and-score from Kane Wilson. The sophomore defender picked up a Jefferson City fumble midway through the second quarter and ran untouched to the end zone.

Hannibal’s defense, which produced its third shutout in the last six games, shut down run-oriented Jefferson City (6-5). The Jays, who had won six of their previous seven games, boasted an offense built around senior backs Kevion Pendleton and David Bethune, who had combined for 3,093 rushing yards entering the game. Pendleton was the lone bright spot for Jefferson City, finishing with 155 yards to up his season total to 1,775.

Jefferson City threw only five passes, completing one for minus-1 yard. For the year, the Jays threw only 40 passes.

“I thought our kids did a great job, regardless of the score … they kept their foot on the gas at all times,” Gschwender said.

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