Prep Football

Pirates embrace St. Clair's return to sideline

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 16, 2017 9:45 am

HANNIBAL, Mo.

His players didn't say much when Hannibal football coach Mark St. Clair announced he was retiring, although the emotional challenge it provided was real.

"It hit me hard," senior defensive end Evan Allen said. "One of the reasons I'm good and can compete out there is because of Coach St. Clair."

Asking the Pirates to play without him on the sidelines didn't seem fair to most of them.

"For him to say he was going to retire my senior year, that hurt me," defensive tackle Boogie Tate said.

It hurt St. Clair, too, so much so that retirement lasted a little more than a week.

St. Clair announced in mid-March he was retiring from coaching after 20 successful seasons at Hannibal in which his teams went 170-59 and made 13 playoff appearances. Nine days later, he rescinded his resignation and was back in charge of the Pirates' program.

"I love him as a coach, and I was sad to see him go," senior defensive back Wyatt Waelder said. "But I was even happier when he came back. He's a great coach. I really don't think you could replace him."

At least for another year, Hannibal doesn't have to fret over that.

Eventually, that day will come. There will be football players who make it tough to walk away, and St. Clair knows that.

However, at 53 years old, he wasn't ready to give up Friday night lights, Saturday morning film sessions or long days on the Porter Stadium turf trying to gameplan for an opponent he will tell you is bigger, stronger and faster.

Maybe more opponents embody all three characteristics than we give them credit for, but Hannibal always seems to find a way to outthink, outwit and outlast them.

Much of that has to do with St. Clair.

"For me, he's my favorite coach," Tate said. "I've known him since I was young. I came to his practices when I was in elementary school. For him to say he was going to come back, it brought me joy."

This team, as much as any other he has coached, needed the stability St. Clair brings.

He might be jokingly referred to as "the grumpy ol' pirate" by some of his assistants, but he's the captain and his crew is intact. With a team heavy on talent but light on experience, the Pirates didn't need an upheaval. They needed a leader.

St. Clair saw that. And he came back.

"It showed me not to take anything for granted," Tate said. "I'm going to go hard for him if this is his last year."

And the Pirates plan to stick to one of St. Clair's deepest principles to make this a successful season.

They intend to be all for one and one for all.

"We're able to work together as one," Allen said. "If you can't work together, your whole team falls apart and you can't win games. You've got to be able to help each other."

The Pirates helped St. Clair see he wasn't ready to walk away, and he's helped them see anything is possible.

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