Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio loves facing off with Jesuit, which his team will be facing for the fourth consecutive preseason jamboree tonight (Aug. 23).
“Jesuit is such a storied program in Louisiana high school football,” Saltaformaggio said. “The thing about playing Jesuit, they’ll be in midseason form. They’re so very well-coached and their kids play with tremendous intensity. They also play with a tremendous knowledge of the game that we’ll try to pick up as the season goes along. I like playing them because they’ll come with their entire gameplan in place.”
Junior varsity is schedule to kick off at 5:30 p.m. with varsity action to follow.
Saltaformaggio said well-coached teams expose weaknesses in their opponents, and the coach said that can be a positive at this point in the process because it lets a team know what it has to correct before the games start to count.
“They give you a great picture of what you need to work on as the season starts to unfold,” Saltaformaggio said, noting a similar dynamic was at play against Northshore in last Friday’s scrimmage.
Those attending the jamboree matchup will see a tremendous matchup of team strengths in the trenches as the Blue Jays offensive line battles with Hahnville’s defensive front. The latter is what Saltaformaggio believes is his team’s trump card, but he said that group will be tested in a major way this week. The Tigers have strong players up front, the front six players in Saltaformaggio’s 3-3-5 alignment allowing the team to flood the field with defensive backs, and the Blue Jays will attempt to push their size advantage to the limit.
“They’re very big and very physical, and they’re also exceptionally sound technically,” Saltaformaggio said. “It’s really gonna put a burden on our front six guys.”
Another area where Jesuit should have the advantage is the kicking game, something Saltaformaggio said is something his team has to continue to improve in.
“We’re replacing two tremendous players at kicker and punter from last season, and right now, we have to be prepared to play a lot of defensive football on half a field,” Saltaformaggio said. “We knew coming in our kicking game is a work in progress. Northshore was a team with a tremendous punter and kicker and we’ll likely see the same against Jesuit, so this is all kind of teaching us how we’ll have to navigate the field position part of the game.”
One key storyline that was still up in the air early in the week was the availability of quarterback Andrew Robison, who transferred to Hahnville from Vandebilt Catholic earlier this year. The LHSAA has not yet cleared Robison to play, its ruling on his immediate eligibility still pending. Robison is an experienced senior passer who tallied close to 2,700 yards and topped 30 touchdown passes last season with Vandebilt.
Saltaformaggio said he hopes to have Robison active this week after the senior sat out of Friday’s scrimmage, but acknowledged the LHSAA has not given any kind of concrete timeline. With Robison out, sophomore Drew Naquin started the scrimmage and would project to start Friday night, while last year’s starter at quarterback, Jha’Quan Jackson, is taking some reps to mix in if needed. Jackson, a SMU commitment, has moved to wide receiver for his senior year.
“(The uncertainty) makes it difficult,” said Saltaformaggio. “We’ll keep working with Andrew Naquin and preparing as if Robison won’t be there … it’s all we can do because we just don’t know.”
He also said it’s a tough matter for Robison himself, as this is his senior year.
“Hopefully he’ll get eligible and it’ll correct itself,” Saltaformaggio said.
MIXED BAG: Last Friday’s scrimmage at Tiger Stadium featured some inconsistency from the Tigers —flashes of dominant defensive play and big play capability on the offensive side, but also penalties and dry spells that helped Northshore edge Hahnville in the timed quarter to end the scrimmage, 10-7.
Andrew Naquin’s touchdown pass to Jha’Quan Jackson in the quarter was a highlight for Hahnville. Northshore scored on a long pass after holding possession after a personal foul penalty against the Tigers extended a drive, that score going with a field goal.
“We had one missed assignment defensively there on a night I was very pleased with our defense overall,” Saltaformaggio said. “We really struggled a bit offensively, broke some big games but we were inconsistent.
The Tigers got touchdown runs from Brandon Comardelle, Dominique Curley and Jace Myers in the earlier portion of the scrimmage, where each team got to run a predetermined number of plays before giving way to the opponent.