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story.lead_photo.caption Aneyas Williams of Hannibal is tackled by a group of Helias defenders during Friday night's game at Ray Hentges Stadium. Photo by Ken Barnes / News Tribune.

It wasn't the start to the game the Helias Crusaders wanted.

A little more than three minutes into Friday night's game at Ray Hentges Stadium, the Crusaders trailed the Hannibal Pirates 13-0.

"They were the better football team," Helias coach Chris Hentges said after the Pirates defeated the Crusaders 54-20 to start the 2021 season. "Sometimes, you just have to admit that after a game."

The Pirates used a 10-play, 80-yard drive on the first series of the game to take the lead for good. Aneyas Williams scored from 3 yards out before Courtland Watson snuck through a PAT to make it 7-0 with 9:09 left int he first quarter.

Helias took over on its own 20 to start its first series. After a 9-yard run on first down, Drew Miller threw an interception in the flat to Jackson Kerr, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 Hannibal lead with 8:55 to go in the opening quarter.

Watson connected with John Clubine with 1:31 remaining in the first quarter to extend Hannibal's advantage to 19-0.

The Pirates finished with 151 yards and nine first downs on 21 plays in the first quarter.

Helias got its first touchdown of the season in the final minute of the first quarter when Miller connected with Billy Underwood for a 71-yard touchdown. Vinnie Calvaruso booted the PAT and Hannibal led 19-7 going into the second quarter.

Watson threw two touchdown passes to Williams in the second quarter for the Pirates, throwing a 46-yard score to Williams with 10:04 left before halftime. Then, with just :00.3 left in the half, he tossed a 10-yard strike to Williams as the Pirates took a 33-13 lead into halftime.

Helias' second-quarter touchdown came on a 2-yard run by Will Herrbold with 1:17 left.

Hannibal finished the first half with 315 total yards — 119 rushing and 196 passing — and 15 first downs on 51 plays.

"They won the battle at the line of scrimmage," Hentges said.

Helias had 135 total yards — 17 rushing and 118 passing — in the first two quarters.

A 64-yard run by Williams, a sophomore who already has drawn NCAA Division I attention with an offer from Oregon, midway through the third quarter extended Hannibal's lead to 40-13. Helias quickly answered with a 74-yard pass from Miller to Kaden Hampson to pull the Crusaders to within 40-20.

Hannibal scored twice in the fourth quarter. With 11:29 on the clock, Watson took it over from a yard out. Watson then hooekd up with Kaiser Greenwell from 30 yards out with 1:15 to go to make the final 54-20.

"We knew it was going to be a very tough game, maybe against the best opponent we will see all season," Hentges said. "Our lack of experience, their experience. Their athleticism, their speed, it was a tough night for us."

Hannibal finished with 263 yards rushing on 57 carries. AJ Thomas led the Pirates with 142 yards on 33 carries. Williams finished with 96 yards on 14 carries.

Watson finished 13-of-20 passing for 275 yards. Williams caught eight passes for 168 yards.

Hannibal (1-0) will host Jefferson City (0-1) next Friday night.

Helias finished with 13 yards rushing on 20 carries, hurt by a 25-yard loss on a fumble. The Crusaders were 11-of-25 passing for 271 yards.

Helias (0-1) will host Hickman (0-1) at 7 p.m. next Friday in a Central Missouri Activities Conference contest. Hickman fell 45-0 to Francis Howell to open the season.

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