HANNIBAL | The biggest question heading into the season for Hannibal boys soccer was how to replace the production from Nathan DeStefane.
Last season, DeStefane led the Pirates in goals (26) and assists (16) and he set a new school record for most game-winning goals with 10. There is no plug-in to fill a hole of that size, so Hannibal is opting for a group approach.
In the first two games of the 2020 campaign, the Pirates have outscored their opponents 12-2, including a 3-0 shutout of Canton on Monday in the team's home debut. Those 12 goals have come off the foot of eight different players.
“It's always great when you can have the whole team that can chip in,” said Pirates senior Tristen Terrill, who scored two of the team's three goals against the Tigers on Monday. “Last year it was great obviously with Nathan having those goals, but this year I feel like we've got a lot of guys that we can distribute to all over the field. We don't just have to rely on one person.”
Multiple players have stepped into the offensive focal point early on, too. In the season-opening win against Kirksville, Caleb Young scored three goals to lead the Pirates. On Monday, Tristen Terrill found the net twice in some crucial situations.
“So far in these two games, we've shown we have options,” Hannibal coach Eric Hill said. “In the first game, Caleb stepped up and hit three goals but then everybody else stepped up as well. In this game, Tristen came up big. It looks like we are going to be able to count on different guys each night, one will have a big night.
“Even with that, I think we've got other guys that are capable of putting one or two in as well. It's going to be tougher for defenses to try to pick one guy that they are going to take out of the game.”
The Pirates are even getting offensive production out of their back line. Senior defender Blayde Terrill netted his second goal of the season Monday when he found the ball 25 yards out and put a rocket of a shot past Canton goalkeeper Aydin Morlang in the 44th minute to make it a 2-0 Hannibal advantage.
“He had a goal the other night at Kirksville and we thought that was pretty crazy, but then he came up confident and ripped one,” Tristen Terrill, the first player to congratulate his cousin on the shot, said. “I was like, 'Dang, we're up 2-0 now. We better get another one to just put them out of this thing.'”
Tristen Terrill delivered 13 minutes later, scoring on a penalty kick in the 57th minute to put the game away for good. It was Tristen Terrill's first goal that held more importance, however.
After withstanding an early onslaught from the Tigers, the Pirates hit back hard in the final 20 minutes of the first half, outshooting Canton 10-0 in that span. Despite the lopsided attack, Hannibal couldn't get the final touch while Tigers goalkeeper Dillon Herren did everything he could to keep the score tied at 0.
That was until Tristen Terrill caught the ball with open space in front of him, an opportunity he used to put his team ahead 1-0 in the 34th minute to go into halftime with a lead.
“Once that first goal goes in, they may put their heads down a little bit but I think even more importantly it gives us that confidence that OK, we can score,” Hill said. “We were struggling to get one to go in early on. We had our opportunities, but we couldn't connect in that final third. I think that one goal just gave everybody that boost of confidence that what we are doing is working, we just have to stick to the plan.”
It allowed the Pirates to breathe.
“It was a big relief because we had been grinding the whole game,” Tristen Terrill said. “We were all over them the whole game, we just couldn't get anything in the back of the net. When that one got past the keeper it was just a big sigh of relief pretty much.”
Despite a perfect start, the Pirates also feel there is plenty of room for improvement.
“We need to work on our touch, obviously,” Tristen Terrill said. “We've had some bad touches in the middle, and if we get a good touch here and there or a good pass here and there it leads to a goal opportunity. Other than that, I think we are going in hard every time.