Tigers are young, but have plenty of talent
|Photo by Jonathan Menard|
“It looks like we have depth,” Valdin said. “I know it sounds weird when you say you're inexperienced, but have depth. We just have a lot of good football players that haven't played.”
But those good football players will have to grow up in a hurry.
Hahnville opens up the pre-district slate against 2007 playoff team McDonogh 35, followed by a trip to Istrouma.
“It's always tough when you take a young team on the road,” Valdin said.
After that, the Tigers take on Helen Cox and O.P. Walker, who Valdin says are two of the top ten teams in New Orleans.
“Then our district is going to be the usual battle royal with the defending state champions as our first district game,” Valdin said. “And Destrehan is still the champion until someone knocks them off.”
And the Tigers will have to do all that without quarterback B.J. Young, who tossed a school-record 29 touchdowns and threw for 2,219 yards in 2007. Young is now at Southeastern Louisiana. Also gone is Miami signee LaRon Byrd, who had 41 catches for 606 yards, and offensive threat Ivory Washington, who had 39 catches for 627 yards.
“Ivory was really a big loss for us," Valdin said. "Everybody remembers Byrd because he signed, but Ivory was our go-to guy last year."
But that's not all Hahnville lost on offense. In fact, the Tigers only return one starter on that side of the ball - left tackle Sean Turner.
Quarterback: Battling to take over the reigns of the Tiger offense are senior Guiseppe Crovetto and sophomore Brian Ensminger. Ensminger didn't see any varsity action last year, but Crovetto played in mop-up duty, connecting on both of his pass attempts for 11 yards.
“If we had to play today, it would be Seppy Crovetto,” Valdin said. "I also think Ensminger is going to see a lot of varsity time."
Running Backs: The Tigers may have lost Lauren White and Greg Julian, who combined for almost 1,000 yards last year, but they do get back Jai Steib. As a junior, Steib rushed for 515 yards on 114 attempts. He also scored 12 touchdowns. Sophomores Alfred Blue, who rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries, and Ahmad White, who had 38 yards on 22 carries, also return.
“I think the running back position is our strongest area, if we can block, because we have depth there,” Valdin said. “That's probably the most critical spot on offense to have depth, so we are going to have fresh legs”
Juniors Jared Harrell and Lloyd Richard will be the fullbacks.
Wide Receivers: It may seem like the Tigers lost a lot with the graduation of Washington and Byrd, but Valdin says that this year's group has the potential to be special.
“James Butler and Blaise Dempster have a chance to be just as good,” Valdin said. “They both played JV a lot last year and have been impressive so far.”
Butler, who is a junior, caught 1 pass for 17 yards last year. Dempster, a senior, had 11 catches for 146 yards.
Offensive Line: While the Tigers should have plenty of skill players, the line is a concern for Valdin.
“We lost four experienced seniors on the offensive line,” Valdin said. “It's going to be hard to see how the line is going to be until we go against someone else. We just need game experience right now and they need to be out there in a game-type situation.”
As of now, only Turner has locked down a starting position. Valdin also thinks that senior Rene Baudoin will end up at one of the four open spots.
“Right now, four of our spots are still open,” Valdin said. “I don't know if any of them are solidified for sure, but that's good because the competition is making all of the linemen better.”
Defensively, the Tigers were a little luckier this year, but not by much. The unit returns three starters, including all-state nose gaurd Wendell Boyd and cornerbacks Antoine Evans and Danzell Lockett. All three players will be seniors this year.
Defensive Line: Right now, Valdin says there are three players battling it out for the defensive end spots. Junior Da Mon Scott, who played safety last year, has put on some weight over the summer and will probably end up at one of the ends. Junior Britten Lanaux and sophomore Jontrell Lockett will fight it out for the other spot.
However, the key to the line is all-state nose guard Boyd. The senior stepped up big last season and will be counted on to lead a young defensive unit.
Linebackers: The Tigers play with four linebackers and Valdin says that six guys are currently competiting for those spots. Senior Cameron Elmer was injured last year, but started the year before that. He should start at inside linebacker.
“He is probably the only one of the bunch that has significant playing time,” Valdin said. “Had he not been injured, he would be a three-year starter.”
Cornerbacks: Evans and D. Lockett will start at the corners. Valdin is glad to have both of them back.
“Those are two experienced guys and they are both college prospects,” he said. “We like to play man and having those guys out there really helps.”
Safety: Just like at linebacker and defensive end, Valdin says several players are currently auditioning for starting spots at safety. Out of the three, senior Jordan Nunez has locked down one of the safety positions.
“We don't have a problem rotating guys in,” Valdin said.
Special Teams: This unit is in good hands (or feet) with the return of senior Brandon Larousse. Valdin is also glad to have deep-snapper Nunez back.
“Our kicker is back, and he's a good one,” Valdin said. “The most important guy in special teams is also back - our long snapper Nunez. Nunez is the most important guy on special teams. There isn't any question.”
All three tailbacks will serve as kick returners, while Dempster will be back to field punts.
“We don't really return a lot of punts,” Valdin said. “We are always trying to block them.”
Overall: Even though his team is starting so many new players, Valdin is optimistic about the season.
“We don't have as many seniors as we normally have, but we're glad we have so many young kids because we get them back for the next couple of years,” he said. “We're not very big, but we're pretty strong. Overall, I think our speed is really good on both offense and defense.”
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