HANNIBAL — With the result secured early in the second half, Jefferson City's Week 2 loss offered a moment of clarity.
The two programs — Hannibal and the Jays they dispatched 40-13 Friday night — have been going in opposite directions in the past couple of seasons after Jefferson City beat the Pirates 27-12 in 2019.
It was a second straight rough week for the Jays, but it's still less than a month into the Damon Wells era and those results show how much the Pirates have improved as much as it shows the current state of the Jays team.
"I think our focus right now is on a group and we're not going to talk about any one individual," Wells said. "We're going to get better collectively as a group and see what we can go from here to here a lot of weeks left."
It also shows the job Wells has ahead with a team that is extremely young and inexperienced outside the skill positions more than it depicts the job he or any of the players have done so far.
After a promising 34-20 loss to Chaminade, one of the top teams in Class 5, the Jays stumbled on offense and defense Friday night against a Hannibal team with state title aspirations.
The 13 points came from David Bethune with the first-team offense against a mixture of reserves from the Pirates defense late in the game. Bethune's two late scores accounted for 132 of the Jays' 208 yards where they went with a run-heavy attack again with mixed success.
The defense had a difficult time stopping Hannibal sophomore Aneyas Williams and the rest of the Hannibal offense. It didn't help the Jays cause safety and reserve running back Kevion Pendelton was in a boot on the sidelines with a foot injury.
Williams had 183 total yards on 14 touches, three scores, and was the Pirates' punter and kicker on kickoffs. He caught Jefferson City napping on an onside kick early in the third quarter , then scored two plays later to turn a 14-0 halftime Hannibal lead into a 28-0 advantage, putting the game to bed just 1:08 into the second half.
Williams also had an 88-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the first half taken off the board after a penalty.
"I think talent is talent," Wells said. "You have to scheme and match it with talent and have great technique. And we're going to continue to get better."
The one positive on defense was its ability to continue to create turnovers. Some of those were self-inflicted wounds by the Pirates, like a fumbled snap, a fumbled handoff, and an interception that bounced off the hands of a receiver, but the Jays were able to take advantage of those mistakes and have five turnovers through two weeks.
The interception was a turning point in the game. Down 14-0, Bethune adjusted to grab the tipped pass out of the air and used his speed to slalom between Pirates defenders and into the end zone.
It looked like the Jays had been given a lifeline to cut the deficit in half, but a flag sitting on the field near midfield dashed those hopes. A block in the back wiped away the return and took the points off the board, and a couple of plays later the offense failed to put points on the board and the lead stayed at two scores.
The Pirates scored 20 points in the first eight minutes of the third quarter to turn a tough but manageable deficit into an insurmountable one.
During the loss, it was clear the Pirates are a good blueprint for a program the Jays can follow to get back to their past success. The program has experienced players who had a game plan they ran to perfection. After developing underclassmen in the past couple of seasons the Pirates are favorites to win a second straight district title.
That experience and time to implement a program have paid dividends for the Pirates, and now Jefferson City can try to do a similar thing.
"It's a great group of boys that work hard," Wells said. "We're going to continue to get better."
The Jays will play their Central Missouri Activities Conference opener Friday against Rock Bridge. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Adkins Stadium.