To prove how much they like Hannibal varsity football head coach Mark St. Clair, Mexico honored the long time educator prior to Friday nights North Central Missouri Conference matchup at the Bulldogs to wish him well in his impending retirement.
Shortly there after the contest began and, despite several serious threats by the Mexico offense, when the Pirates defense held on a fourth down and goal at the four yard line on the very first drive of the game, that gave them the momentum and they rode it all the way to a 42-6 league road win.
"We've got a veteran football team and that showed on the field. The Mexico kids played hard, but they've got a lot of young kids out there," said Hannibal coach Mark St. Clair. "They gave us fits, especially early. They put together some drives and had some long runs, but I was proud of our kids for how they played down around the goal line. It's hard to stop any team on that part of that field, especially one as good as Mexico, and we stopped them twice down there."
Hannibal's opening score came at 3:18 of the first quarter when quarterback Gabe Worthington reached the endzone on a 15-yard run. After Isaiah Cockrell hit the extra point that put the Bulldogs down 7-0, and when the defense once again stood tall on fourth down, that led to the Pirates starting the second quarter at the Mexico 19-yard line. From there all Hannibal needed was a five yard run and an offsides penalty and Worthington scored again, this time from 10 yards out at 11:52 to make it a 14-0 lead.
"Over the last four years we've done a good job of competing with Hannibal, but they're a bigger school. They choose from 400 or 500 more kids than we do," said Mexico coach Steve Haag. "That makes a difference, when you can put 70 bodies on your roster. Coach St. Clair also does a great job. He's like an institution over there."
The Bulldogs answer to all this mayhem came from Dillon Nichols and it began when he took a handoff at his own 40 and took it to the Hannibal 34 yard line. Several plays later on third down and three from the 28 Nichols got the ball again and broke wide for the score, but when the extra point hit the upright at 8:24 Mexico could only close the gap to 14-6.
"Hannibal's offense is tough, and we kind of mirror that stuff. It didn't work out. They were the better team, but this is a good thing," Haag said. "It's a good gauge for us. We get to see what a good football team is like. We're going to face some good football teams down the road."
It was all Pirates after that as Worthington connected on passes to Will Whitaker of 26 and 29 yards to set up a seven yard touchdown run by JaQuez McGruder at 6:41. Worthington also scored on a three-yard toudchdown dive at 3:17 and McGruder hit paydirt from the two yard line with :22 left in the second to send the game into halftime with the Bulldogs trailing 35-6.
"We knew Mexico was going to run the football. They're a downhill running team and we are to. Coach Haag turned this team around as soon as he got here by making kids tough, running the ball and playing hard-nosed defense," St. Clair said. "We knew that's what we were going to get and we kn we had to at least try and slow down the run so they didn't put together eight, 10 and 12 play drives. That was the goal. There was no way around that. You can't let them have those extended drives."
For the game Mexico ran 48 plays for 191 yards (164 rushing, 27 passing) of offense while Hannibal had 50 plays for 438 yards (320 rushing, 118 passing) of offense.
The Pirates, 2-2 overall, 1-0 overall, is at Kirksville next week.
Mexico, 2-2 overall, 1-1 NCMC, is at Clinton next week.