There is no doubt that Hahnville head coach Lou Valdin wishes his team was entering the Class 5A state playoffs on a high note, but the Tigers' offensive struggles did them in during last week's 41-16 loss to East St. John.
|Tiger defensive lineman Jordan Thompson comes close to bringing down ESJ quarterback Darion Monroe in Hahnville’s 41-16 loss last week. Tiger head coach Lou Valdin was pleased with the physical play of his defense, and the squad will have to put up anothe
"Whether you win or lose, it all depends on how well you're playing when you enter the playoffs, and we didn't play our best football," he said.
Though Valdin singled out the play of his defense, whom he thought played a very physical game, he was disappointed in the numerous offensive miscues that included drop passes and a pair of interceptions that led to 14 Wildcat points.
After East St. John scored on their first possession, Hahnville's offense struggled throughout the first quarter, with the lone bright spot being a fake punt that Ahmad White ran for five yards to pick up the first down. However, the Tigers sputtered after that and it wasn't until the second quarter that they finally tied up the score.
The Tigers' scoring drive was set up by a 3-yard East St. John punt. On the ensuing play - a screen pass to White - the Wildcat defenders were flagged for a late hit on quarterback Brian Ensminger. White took advantage of the penalty by scoring a touchdown from 1-yard out.
The Wildcats would jump back on top thanks to a questionable pass interference call in the end zone that led to a 3-yard touchdown by Monroe.
However, the Tigers struck last in the half, with Austin Fremen kicking a 39-yard field goal to pull Hahvnille within four at 14-10.
But the biggest plays of the game all took place in the second half.
After the Tigers had put together their best drive of the game, Ensminger was pressured into lofting the ball into the path of Wildcat defensive lineman Dathan Thomas. The big man literally rumbled 75 yards in the opposite direction to give ESJ a 21-10 lead.
Hahnville clawed back into the game in
the fourth quarter when Ensminger connected with Desvon Joseph on a 61-yard pass that brought the ball to the 3-yard line. White eventually pushed the ball into the end zone, but the Tigers failed on a two-point conversion try and still trailed 21-16.
That was as close as Hahnville would get.
ESJ's D'haquille Williams scored his second touchdown on a 19-yard catch on the ensuing possession to put his team up 28-16.
The Wildcats officially put the game away shortly after with a 100-yard interception return by Nathan Anderson.
"Obviously I'm disappointed in the loss," Valdin said. "On offense we threw picks and we had a lot of dropped balls and I was disappointed in our special teams' play. No one works harder than us on special teams, and to have a fumble was frustrating."
The Tigers will need to correct those issues if they hope to move past the first round of the playoffs. Their opponent, West Jefferson, is very similar to East St. John on offense and is averaging more than 35 points per game.
The Buccaneers are led by quarterback Shawn Hoye Jr., who became the school's all-time leading passer this season. Hoye has thrown for 2,150 yards and 17 touchdowns this year, while also rushing for 449 yards. He has thrown only six interceptions in 215 attempts.
"(Hoye Jr.) is the best quarterback we will face all year…he might be the best quarterback in the state," Valdin said. "He is very accurate and is capable of running around and buying his receivers time."
If West Jefferson (6-4) has a weakness, it's their defense. The Buccaneers are giving up around 25 points a game, and suffered a 42-35 loss to Hahnville district mate Dutchtown. Even in their most impressive victory, a 59-56 win over St. Augustine, West Jefferson struggled on the defensive side of the ball.
"Teams have had success running the football on them, so that's what we're going to have to do," Valdin said. "Time of possession is going to be huge. If we're not able to run the football, we're going to be picking up equipment."
Valdin said that the first round of the playoffs is usually the most difficult game to prepare for because coaches don't find out their opponent until Sunday.
"That puts you two days behind in preparation," he said. "You also have to break down a lot of film because you are dealing with an unfamiliar team. In district, you play each other every week so you have film on everyone.
"If you win, then you're back on a regular schedule."
But don't think Valdin is looking ahead on the playoff bracket - he says he is 100 percent focused on West Jefferson.
"Right now, the only thing we're worried about in the bracket is West Jeff," he said. "After Friday, 16 teams will be going home and we want to still be playing football."