HANNIBAL – The goal the Hannibal football team has put together this week is rather simple.
That's getting back to .500.
Doing so erases the 0-3 start Hannibal had on the season with three straight victories. It also moves the Pirates to 3-0 in the North Central Missouri Conference play.
It's easy to see why that's the goal.
“That's what I'm always telling the guys,” senior lineman Caleb Allen said. “It's just one more step. I just want to keep pushing, and the more wins the better.”
More importantly, another win keeps Hannibal's dreams of an NCMC title alive.
“We still had everything attainable when we started this stretch,” Hannibal coach Quentin Hamner said. “We're building what we want to look like and what we want to do at this point in the season. Getting back to .500 really has a lot of value and respect in how far we've come in a short period of time.”
Those improvements have come on both sides of the ball.
After averaging just four points per game and giving up 32.7 points per game through the first three games of the season, those numbers have dramatically shifted. Hannibal is now averaging 43.5 points per game with victories over Mexico and Kirksville, while allowing just 20.5 points per contest. Those numbers aren't perfect, but it's a vast difference from the first three weeks.
“We've gotten a lot better,” Allen said. “Hopefully we can continue this winning streak and show who we really are because those first three weeks wasn't it.”
The successes on offense have come from the linemen beginning to control the play up front, which has allowed quarterback Courtland Watson time to throw and created space for running back Damien French to run.
Both enjoyed near career games in last week's victory over Kirksville. French ran for more than 200 yards and five touchdowns, four of which came in the first half. Watson, meanwhile, completed 11 of 20 passes for 167 yards.
“We want to run the ball, and that's no secret,” Hamner said. “But we're throwing the ball, well, too. But we need to just put all three phases of the game together.”
That's improving, too, but the defense still has its hiccups. Hannibal allowed a touchdown on the final play of the first half last week against Kirksville, and the Tigers also had a quick two-play drive in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to two scores.
The Pirates want those cleaned up, and they're starting to show they're capable.
“We just have to overcome a negative play or anything negative,” Hamner said. “As a player, an athlete or whatever sport, you have to do that no matter what. And even in life. We're trying to teach our kids this just a small step in a big picture.”
Doing that for another week can put Hannibal one step closer to a conference title.