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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City assistant football coach Steve Samson talks to Devin Reed on the field between downs during Saturday's game against Wentzville: Holt at Adkins Stadium. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / California Democrat.

It's been a little bit louder at Jefferson City football practice this week. And it's not just because of the band practicing nearby.

"I would say my tolerance level for lack of discipline and lack of effort is a lot lower," Jays coach Scott Bailey said as his team prepares to host the Hannibal Pirates tonight. "Probably two things that I've noticed about me this week."

That's the result of a 36-7 loss to Wenzville: Holt last Saturday at Adkins Stadium.

Up next is a home game against the Hannibal Pirates, who had their opening game against Helias canceled after all practices and competitions were suspended until Tuesday.

On Aug. 27, the Hannibal School Board voted to allow athletic events to continue, which meant tonight's game at Jefferson City was back on the schedule.

The Jays defeated the Pirates 27-12 last year on the road and 30-27 two seasons ago at Adkins Stadium. A week later, Jefferson City defeated Hickman 19-7 for what stands as its last home victory.

The Jays will try to break that eight-game losing streak at Adkins Stadium tonight. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Pirates return senior running back Damien French, who ran it 30 times for 105 yards and a touchdown last season against the Jays.

"Tackle him, preferably over and over again before he torches us," Bailey said. " We're going into the game somewhat blind and trying to predict what we're going to see. Obviously, our defense has to be able to tackle a big, physical, strong, powerful running back."

French gained more than 1,600 yards on the ground last season, scoring 23 touchdowns on his way to being named to the all-state second team by the Missouri Football Coaches Association.

He'll be helping returning quarterback Courtland Watson run the pistol offense. Watson, a junior, ran it 22 times for 66 yards and a score last season against Jefferson City. He also threw for 96 yards on 6-of-17 passing.

Leading the Hannibal defense is safety Drake Dudley, who was a third-team all-state honoree last season as a junior.

The Pirates allowed just under 22 points per game last season, helping them reach the Class 4 District 4 championship game.

Jefferson City's offense got off to a slow start to the season, gaining 71 total yards and picking up five first downs last week.

"Not very fast off the ball," Bailey said. "Struggled to get linebackers at Level 2 blocked. Missed too many tackles."

The Jays hope some adjustments can improve on a 23-yard performance on 25 rushing attempts.

Jefferson City's lone scoring drive was its final possession Saturday. Seth Brooks completed four straight passes for 38 yards before running back David Bethune scored from 2 yards out up the middle.

"We've run the ball in the past and had a lot of success, and I got labeled a run coach," Bailey said. "I don't know if I'm a run coach or a pass coach, but I sure want you to label me as a successful coach. And after last Saturday, I don't feel like a successful coach. So hopefully by this Friday I figure that part out."

Tonight, the Jays will be facing a 3-4 defensive allignment that returns three players on the front seven and three defensive backs.

"I'm trying to figure out how to get a first down and I've got 25 seconds to do it," Bailey said. "Whether it's a run play, a pass play, a trick play, inside run, outside run, it doesn't matter to me. I'm just trying to figure out what can get us a first down and keep the drive alive."

III

The Hannibal football team canceled its practice Wednesday because of possible exposure to COVID-19, the Hannibal Courier-Post reported.

According to the report, the Hannibal School District is working with the Marion County Health Department and more information will be released when it becomes available.

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