Tigers surge into playoffs after dominant district run

November 08 at 10:04 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Termon Nash and Jamel Byrd celebrate a touchdown in Friday’s win over H.L. Bourgeois.
Termon Nash and Jamel Byrd celebrate a touchdown in Friday’s win over H.L. Bourgeois.
For weeks, there has been a buzz around the Hahnville Tigers that’s only grown each time the team has taken the field — the talk being that this Hahnville squad is the one that could break through, reach the Superdome and perhaps earn its first state championship since 2003.

Perhaps that’s the case; perhaps not. But over the next five weeks, a rolling Tigers team has a chance to make that dream a reality. Hahnville, the No. 10 seed in Class 5A, begins its postseason Friday night as it hosts No. 23 Denham Springs in first round action.

Nick Saltaformaggio’s previous three Hahnville teams saved their best football for the stretch run and, like this team, rolled into the playoffs on a sizeable winning streak. But Saltaformaggio believes this year’s team is comprised of a special group of players and coaches who have what it takes to win big this postseason.

Already, these Tigers have achieved some significant milestones in the Saltaformaggio era, which began in 2014. Hahnville felled Destrehan for the first time since 2012 and also has captured the school’s first district championship since that year. The Tigers have won seven in a row, the last six of which were decided by 17 points or more.

It adds up to a positive outlook, but Saltaformaggio says none of it will matter if his team cannot overcome Denham Springs this week.

“Your seed, your spot in the bracket and your road to the Superdome, none of it does you any good if you lose in the first round,” said Saltaformaggio. “And Denham Springs is gonna pose some problems. They have a very sophisticated offense, and they’ll give you a lot of shifts, motions and formations. They have two quarterbacks you have to prepare for, good size and some very good skill kids. It’s gonna be a battle for sure.”

He believes his players’ ability to stay focused has been a strong point all season, but he said that has to continue amid any chatter of a deep run.

“I know our kids watch the TV, listen to the radio and they listen to what people are saying,” Saltaformaggio said. “There are people picking us to make it there, to win it … I hope we can play with that kind of energy to prove that respect founded. These kids have earned that kind of respect, so we’ll see as we go through it.

“We’ve got to keep taking care of ourselves, first and foremost. I’ve been at this long enough to know you’re gonna get in tight games in the playoffs. You don’t wanna be the guy to flinch. You have to hold serve.”

Denham Springs works to get standout running back Tyre Golmon into space where he can create big plays for the offense. And 6-foot-2 wide receiver D.J. Williams  is one Saltaformaggio noted could pose a threat for a cornerback group without tremendous height. Joshua Preston and Cameron Feucht share reps at quarterback.

Defensively, linebackers/defensive ends Bennett Judice and Dorsett Washington are among the most dangerous playmakers for a stop unit that features multiple alignments, just like the team’s offense.

“We’ll have to know who to block and continue to be physical. Do that and we’ll be OK,” Saltaformaggio said.

Witnessing physical play from Hahnville has seemed to be a given for weeks, starting up front with a dominating offensive line. Saltaformaggio vowed before the season that this year’s Tigers offense would center its play around the size, strength and depth of its talented offensive line, and that’s exactly what has happened: Hahnville averages 8.8 yards per rushing attempt for an average of 348 yards per game.

Anthony Williams is at the center of that production, the senior University of Kansas commitment having posted 1,734 yards and 23 touchdowns on 158 carries (11 yards per carry) during the regular season. He added six receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown and 247 yards and a score through the kick and punt return game.

But while Hahnville has had strong complimentary runners to Williams before, those runners either split time with the back or entered the game with Williams split out at receiver. This year, quarterback Jha’Quan Jackson has allowed Hahnville the ability to utilize its two best rushers together in the backfield on most downs—he’s tallied 817 yards and 12 touchdowns on 110 carries (7.4 an attempt).

View other articles written Ryan Arena

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Breakout year comes to end for Wildcats
Breakout year comes to end for Wildcats
After securing a playoff berth for the first time since 2013, a breakthrough season came to a close for Destrehan in its Division I first-round playoff match at St. Amant.

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