The Hahnville Tigers put together one of their best games of the year in their 38-13 win over St. Amant last week, and must equal that performance if they hope to pick up a victory in an epic clash with East St. John (8-1).
|Jamon Lathers (left) and Jordan Thompson (right) chase St. Amant quarterback Jaylin LeBlanc out of the pocket last Friday. The Hahnville defense held the Gators to only 27 yards in the first half and became only the third team to hold St. Amant to less th
Running back Ahmad White again was the driving force behind the Tiger offense, rushing for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Derek Howard also put up big numbers as he caught five passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Brian Ensminger showed little signs of the injury that hobbled him two weeks ago, throwing for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense was also successful in Head Coach Lou Valdin's plan to keep the Gator offense off of the field as much as possible. Linebacker Ben Taylor and defensive lineman Jordan Thompson both recovered fumbles and the defense as a whole became only the third squad this year to hold St. Amant under 30 points.
In the first half, the Gators managed only 27 yards.
"I was really pleased with how we played…we were good on offense, defense and our special teams played better," Valdin said. "I was really impressed with our defense, which shut down a team that had been scoring a lot of points on everybody."
Valdin said that his team's offensive success came down to their ability to run the football.
"Our QB is on one leg, so running the football opens up a lot of play action and screen passes," he said. "Because of that the defense can't just pin their ears back and come at our quarterback."
Valdin said most of his team's big plays came on play action passes, and that quarterback Brian Ensminger was able to take advantage of Hahnville's running attack to make St. Amant pay.
"He audibled into some plays that had us throwing the ball for a lot of yards on 2nd and 1," Valdin said. "It was all because of our success running the football."
While the Tiger offense will have to put up a lot of points Friday when they travel to East St. John, it's the defense that will be under the most pressure.
The Wildcat offense is averaging almost 43 points per game and boasts a player Valdin calls the best in the state.
East St. John receiver D'haquille Williams has only been playing football for two years, but the senior's leaping grabs and his ability to make defenders miss in the open field makes him extremely dangerous.
"(Williams) is the best player in the state and one of the best receivers I've ever seen play," Valdin said. "When the ball is thrown anywhere in his direction, he goes up and makes the play."
Williams has also played quarterback and running back for the Wildcats, and has even tossed a 75-yard touchdown pass this year.
And while Williams is exceptional, he's not the only weapon East St. John has on the field.
"They have three or four great receivers and two great running backs, but what makes their offense work is their quarterback," Valdin said. "(Darion Monroe) doesn't get sacked and he scrambles around to buy his playmakers time. He does a good job of getting them the ball, and all he has to do is toss it up to (Williams) and he goes get it."
To slow down the Wildcats, Valdin says his team will have to make them one dimensional.
"We can't let them run the ball because that would force us to commit our safety to stopping the run instead of covering their receivers," he said. "If we have to commit our safety to the run, we're going to be in trouble."
While East St. John has one of the top offenses in the state, their weak spot is their defense, which gives up more than 27 points per game. But Valdin said they have gotten a lot better recently on that side of the ball.
"They had a bunch of young guys starting at the beginning of the season, but everyone has a full year of football under their belts now - there are no more rookies," he said.
Valdin said the resignation of Larry Dauterive also changed the team's defensive philosophy. Now, he says, the coaching staff is focusing more on that side of the ball.
"They are playing some of their guys both ways, and that gets more of their athletes on the field on the defensive side," he said.
That means the Tiger offense might have to work a little harder than East St. John's earlier foes to get on the score board.
"We are going to have to mix it up and score a lot of points," Valdin said. "We have won a lot of games relying on our defense, but East St. John is a quick-strike team, so we are going to have to score when we get the ball."
Special teams play will also be a huge factor in the contest, Valdin said.
"We have got to win special teams," he said. "As great as their athletes are on offense, they are also very dangerous in the return game."