The teams are ready, the coaches are ready, and yes, even the diehard prep football fans in both Hannibal and Palmyra are ready to go! The storylines have been established, the records have been reviewed, and now it's time to play the games. In this case, we're discussing State Quarterfinal football match-up's that are scheduled to take place at Porter Stadium and the Palmyra Football & Track Complex on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.
"The Breakdown" for the Hannibal Pirates:
For the (8-2) Pirates of Hannibal this week, there mission really centers around continuing to show the fire they displayed last week against Moberly in the Class 4 District 4 title game. Hannibal had their offense firing on all cylinders as they rolled past the Spartans 48-13 on the road. Running back Damien French rushed for 226 yards and 4 touchdowns, thanks in large part, to a hard-nosed offensive live that was simply dominate in the trenches. The Hannibal" O-Line" was clearing running lanes that allowed French to have a career day. The MICDS coaching staff has had a chance to see that game footage and break it down extensively over the past week. The "Red and Black" will now have to be focused and dialed in, in regards to possibly making adjustments on the fly.
That's because it's safe to surmise that the Rams will try to do whatever they can early to disrupt the Pirates rushing attack. Will MICDS possibly blitz on first and second downs? Will they put 8 or 9 players in the box and dare HHS quarterback Courtland Watson to put the ball in the air 40 times on Saturday? No one knows for sure, but the real key for the Pirates this weekend may very well be remaining patient under fire. Maintaining their composure, while playing in front of their hometown fans, for a full four quarters, may play a large part in the final outcome of this highly anticipated contest. Watch out for special teams play early as well to also possibly play a big role in the final score in this battle as both teams fight for favorable field position. Hannibal must also avoid turnovers at all cost. Playing hard, playing fast, and controlling the clock. Pirates (Acting) head coach Jason Noland no doubt has that formula already etched in his mind, as well as his game plan. How well the Pirates execute that plan, playing in the biggest game of the season, will be interesting to watch.
Freshman sensation Aneyas Williams may also be ready to introduce himself to the Rams early in this game as well. The last time these two Class 4 squads met on the turf, Williams was just dreaming about playing varsity football as a wide-eyed 7th grader. If he continues playing like an upperclassman on Saturday, HHS could be able to corral, tag, and release the Rams early.
Tony C's Hot Pick: Hannibal Pirates wins at home 35-24.
"The Breakdown" for the Palmyra Panthers:
The Panthers of Palmyra know the opponent they'll face tomorrow quite well, and it's that "comfort level" that could be an advantage, as well as a curse. That is for any other squad that lacks the senior leadership that Palmyra enjoys in 2020. The top-ranked Panthers have truly shown they are a "rock solid" model of consistency this season. The team has avoided any COVID-19 distractions, and they've remained humble, as well as focused, while rolling their way to 11 straight victories. Players don't show up late to practice, and the workout sessions always start on time, promptly at 3:30 p.m. like clockwork. When you find a squad that can master the small details, it's a safe bet that when the big challenges arise, the team will be mentally prepared to take on those challenges with the confidence that they'll be able to handle any obstacle that stands between them, and their established goal.
The 2020 team at PHS has more than 10 seniors who are a part of this driven "band of brothers" that have one, and only one goal. That goal, if you haven't guessed by now, is of course winning the Class 2 State Championship. After posting hard fought victories against Living Word Christian, Bowling Green, Brookfield, Monroe City (twice), Clark County (twice), Highland, Summit Christian Academy, and Centralia, it's hard to doubt that Palmyra won't bring home the hardware from Jeff City in early December. Senior running back Ross Arch is certainly a believer. His stellar play on the field is a clear indicator of that. The same holds true for Weston King, Abe Haerr, Peyton Timbrook, Wade Begley, and of course quarterback Brody Lehenbauer.
The Panthers are also bolstered by strong contributions from players such as Brayden Madden, Collin Arch, Adam Goodwin, Hayes Miller, and a host of other dedicated student-athletes, who simply don't care about individual fame or media attention. They do care about winning a ring, and representing "The Flower City" in a way that will send a resounding message that not only is the Palmyra football program still one of the very best in the state, but that "Character Still Matters!"
Tony C's Hot Pick: Palmyra 42-17
High School Basketball (Friday)
Monroe City Lady Panthers 43
Fulton Lady Hornets 34
Monroe City 55