The Spartans accomplished what no other football program had done against Hannibal this 2012 season and that’s keeping the fifth-ranked Pirates off the scoreboard when Moberly took a surprising 9-0 lead with them into the locker room at the half.
But when Hannibal’s speed shifted into higher gear and that tool managed to come up with a couple big plays in the second half, Moberly could not quite catch up to this annual North Central Missouri Conference powerhouse program and the Spartans returned home losing 34-22.
The loss to Hannibal was Moberly’s 18th time since 1993. The Spartans beat the Pirates in 2007 as part of the program’s 11-1 magical season.
“We executed a game plan about as good as we’ve ever done in that first half with Hannibal, and that is a great credit to our kids. We put together some nice short runs and good pass plays, not having any big plays, but we were very efficient in moving the football and controlling the game clock in that first half,” said Ambroson. “In the last three weeks I think Hannibal scored 40 points in the first half during each of those ball games and we shut them out. That says a lot about what our kids were able to accomplish. In second half, it wasn’t that we played poorly, but their speed took over the game and we could not match up to what they offered across the football field.”
“Hannibal is kind of heavyweight champion. They are a great football program who wins a lot of games and titles year-in, and year-out. In this game the underdog was getting best of champion in first half and put them up against the rope. But like any good seasoned champion, Hannibal had the experience and the right stuff to withstand a tough, hard-fought battle a little more and would come out on top in this game.”
Moberly (5-2, 3-1 NCMC) controlled the first half game clock, and limited Hannibal 7-0, 5-0 NCMC) to about 20 offensive plays in the first half said Ambroson.
Both of the Spartans scoring drives ate up nearly 7 minutes each. The first resulted in a 31-yard field goal by senior Ricky Webb, and early in the second quarter sophomore Gregg Bain scored a touchdown that went for about 30 yards. Ambroson said Moberly put together another long, time consuming drive late in the second quarter but would miss a field goal attempt.
Friday was homecoming for Hannibal followers and the Pirates returned to the field after intermission displaying extra energy.
On the first play of the second half, Hannibal’s Caleb Bieniek was handed the football and the Spartans seemingly had their hands wrapped around him for a short loss when Bieniek magically got loose. The Pirates’ senior turned on the after burners, and jetted off to an 80-yard touchdown run.
Page 2 of 2 - Moberly went three-and-out on their first possession, then Hannibal took over the lead at 13-9 when Mitch Nichols escaped a couple of grasps and scored on a 27-yard run.
“The Hannibal team that came out in the second half stepped up their play a notch, demonstrating they had a little more speed, power and strength,” said Ambroson. “I think what really kind of shook us up was what happened on that first play in the second half when we thought we had their player stopped for a loss, and suddenly he gets loose and he’s quickly off down field for a touchdown. That kind of stunned us, like a deer standing in headlights so to speak. Our kids did not know how to react or respond to what had just happened with that big touchdown run.”
“We were able to answer their touchdown, and we later scored again after we had a very long passing play that set up a score. But the third quarter killed us. We made a mistake on special teams and Hannibal would score two very quick touchdowns then the game just got away from us.”
To Moberly’s credit, despite finding themselves pinned around its 10 yard line following the ensuing kickoff, the Spartans fought back and answered the call.
Junior quarterback Justin Connaway connected with receiver Blake Joiner for about an 80-yard pass. Then on a fourth down situation tight end Jalen Troy caught a 9-yard TD pass with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter giving Moberly back the lead again at 16-13.
The Pirates immediately punched back, scoring on their ensuing possession, and an onside kickoff recovery led to another touchdown as Hannibal never looked back once building a 27-16 advantage on the scoreboard.
Connaway was resilient in the pocket as he threw for 202 yards completing 20-of-31 passes with no interceptions during the game. He also had a fourth quarter touchdown run that went for about 5 yards.
Bain was the Spartans’ leading rusher with 75 yards o 10 carries and Joe Galaske rushed 17 times for 60 yards.
Moberly will celebrate Senior Night on Friday, Oct. 12 when they host conference rival Boonville Pirates.
Since Boonville joined the NCMC in 2008, Moberly has not defeated Boonville and has lost by scores of 7-0 last year, 13-7 in 2010, 28-19 in 2009 and 30-18.