Barnesville set to visit River in pivotal week five showdown
HANNIBAL — River and Barnesville are both going to play in the postseason.
To be determined, though, is who and where each team will play. The result of their head-to-head meeting at Martin Flannery Field in Hannibal Friday night could go a long way in determining those unknowns as coaches vote on seeds next week with the brackets slated to be unveiled one week from today.
“I told our kids (on Monday) that our playoffs start now,” Barnesville head coach Blake Allen confessed. “We’re going on the road this week, to a playoff-type setting against a playoff-caliber team. We feel like if we can get this (victory), it could go a long way in setting us up to get a bye and possibly one or two home (playoff) games.”
The Shamrocks come in fresh off a victory against Shenandoah last Friday and are sitting at 3-1 on the season. Their lone loss came to a once-beaten Beaver Local squad in Week 2.
For the Pilots, meanwhile, they’re looking to nail down one of the eight byes in Division VII, Region 27. Currently, Mike Flannery’s team sits at 3-1 and winners of three straight since suffering a season-opening loss to Bellaire last month.
“If you look around our region, there are several teams that are undefeated, so I really believe we’re going to need a win to have a chance at getting a bye,” Flannery said. “Barnesville is in a similar situation, so this really could be a statement game for both teams. Though everyone makes the playoffs, everyone is playing for something this week.”
The Pilots are coming off a decisive victory against cross-river rival Magnolia and finish the pre-tourney portion of the regular season with a date with rival Shadyside.
But, Flannery won’t let his team look anywhere other than at Barnesville.
“This is going to be a fun game,” Flannery said. “It should be another entertaining game for people to watch. I know we’ve not faced anyone as big as Barnesville all season, so that is something we’re going to have to try to neutralize as best we can.”
The Shamrocks, who have a battle for the ‘Milk Bucket’ next week against Union Local, are unsure if they’re going to have all of their weapons. Senior quarterback Ayden Hannahs missed last week’s game and Allen lists him as “day-to-day.”
“We’re expecting to see him back on the field at some point this season, and every day he’s coming around a little bit more,” Allen said.
If Hannahs can’t go, C.J. Hannahs will once again get the call at quarterback. He played pretty well, according to his coach, against the Zeps last week. Barnesville will once again lean heavily on senior standout Gage Hannahs, who is enjoying a brilliant season. He’s rushed for 364 yards and four touchdowns. He’s also caught 11 passes for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Spencer Bliss and Jake Boulet are also viable targets for whichever Hannahs is at the controls.
“Barnesville has weapons all over the field, so we have to be able to possess the ball and not put our defense in bad spots,” Flannery said. “We’re preparing as if Ayden Hannahs is going to play because I am still having nightmares about him from last season.”
The Pilots, who feature a two-headed backfield monster of seniors Carter Dennis and Michael Johnson, prevailed last season in Belmont County by forcing five turnovers in the 42-22 victory.
“We have to take care of the ball,” Allen stressed. “We know they are aggressive and have a lot of athletes who get to the ball well. They have guys who make plays on both sides of the ball.”
While the Shamrocks have sort of a mystery at quarterback because of injury, the Pilots having been employing two quarterbacks with regularity. Sophomore Brody Lollathin and freshman Kabel Isaly have both been solid for the Pilots.
“River is very sound and well coached across the board,” Allen said. “Though both quarterbacks are young, they’re talented and very capable. They can both run and throw effectively and Johnson and Dennis are guys you have to be concerned about.”