HANNIBAL — In its final home game of the season, the Hannibal varsity football team fell 55-6 to Cato-Meridian Friday afternoon at Hannibal High School.
With it being Senior Night, the Warriors recognized their eight seniors with a ceremony before the game. The seniors included Zach Shortslef, Jacob Kelly, Collin McNeill, John Ruggio, Austin Russell, Austinn Parkhurst, Zach Moore and Jeremy Fellows.
Since there are only 19 players on Hannibal’s roster this season, Hannibal head coach Mike Kitts said the senior’s leadership has been crucial with some of the underclassmen.
“They’re a great group of seniors. They’ve been working hard,” he said. “They’re a good group of kids and we wouldn’t have had any success without them.”
Owen Skiff was the only player from the Warriors that was able to crack the scoreboard for the Warriors with a 44-yard rushing touchdown at 3:07 in the third quarter. The following two-point conversion was no good.
In the game, Skiff ran for nearly 80 yards and also had a fumble recovery. Kitts made sure to emphasize the team’s offensive line creating a solid hole, allowing Skiff to go the distance.
On the defensive side of the ball, Skiff’s fumble recovery came in the fourth quarter.
“Owen’s just a sophomore and playing hard for us,” Kitts said. “When the line blocks and does their job, we’ve had success.”
A majority of Hannibal’s offensive possession was focused on the run, following some strong secondary play from Cato. Shortslef was 1-for-8 in the air with an interception. Kelly caught his lone completion for about 12 yards.
One of Shortslef’s pass attempts led to a pick-six from the Blue Devils. Bo Turo ran in a 62-yard interception for the touchdown to put Cato up 13-0.
“We just really couldn’t throw much,” Kitts said. “We focus a lot on the run game obviously, but so does (Cato).”
The Blue Devils’ strong run game was shown early with a 23-yard touchdown from Connor Harrington with 2:47 left in the first quarter. Harrington ran for 104 yards during the game.
For C-M, Isiah Swan ran in for a 4-yard touchdown, Turo ran in a 60-yard score, Konar Witkowski had a 37-yard touchdown and Ozzy Freeman ran in a 9-yard score.
C-M’s other three touchdowns came from the pick-six, a blocked punt picked up by Trevor Lunkenheimer and a 42-yard touchdown reception from Witkowski to Marcus Ramacus.
No matter how much each team focused on the run game, both Hannibal and C-M seemed to have a problem holding on to the ball with at least five fumbles in the game between the two teams. The Warriors were only able to recover one of the Blue Devils’ fumbles.
“It was ugly. We can’t turn the ball over like that,” Kitts said. “You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win.”
The Blue Devils are ranked No. 5 in Class C for New York State, and one of 12 undefeated in New York for Class C. C-M is only one of two teams undefeated in Section III Class C.
In preparation for the game, Kitts mentioned the team prepared for a typical Hannibal and C-M rivalry despite the ranking for the Blue Devils and tried to be well disciplined enough to execute the game plan.
“The kids know what we’re up against. You don’t have to tell them,” he said. “It’s one of those things where we had to play a perfect game to stay with them. The kids played hard. That’s all you can ask for.”
Hannibal (2-4) hits the road next Friday for its final regular-season game of the season against General Brown (2-3).
If the Warriors are able to beat the Lions, Kitts said the team has a chance to be third in Section III Class C West Division and snatch a wild card spot in the playoffs.
“It’s for all the marbles. The playoffs start (soon) for us,” Kitts said. “It’s a playoff mindset (this week). You lose and you go home.”