“I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms that are sad at the end of a season,” a stunned, somber Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio began, “but I’ve never been in a locker room that was just in pain.”
Those were Saltaformaggio’s words after the end to his Tigers’ season once again came at the hands of Zachary, the two-time defending 5A champions emerging a 21-19 winner at home over Hahnville in round two of the Class 5A playoffs. But this loss may have been the most painful of the four losses to the Broncos the Tigers have endured. And certainly, it was the most controversial.
An apparent game-winning 32-yard field goal by Hahnville’s Tate White sent Hahnville into celebration, but the fun screeched to a halt when attention was drawn to a flag thrown on the play. The kick was negated due to holding and Hahnville was forced to try the kick again following a 10-yard penalty. The second attempt fell short, cementing both a win for Zachary and a finish that will be talked about for a long time to come – particularly for the Tigers.
“You’re not supposed to lose games like that in the state playoffs,” Saltaformaggio said. “Those calls don’t get made. They got made tonight, I guess. It is what it is.
“It’s very, very hard for me to comprehend what just happened.”
A field goal being called back for holding is relatively uncommon, so when Saltaformaggio saw the flag, he said he thought it was likely on Zachary.
“(Holding) was the last thing in the world I was thinking,” Saltaformaggio said. “I figured maybe they were offsides.”
Zachary (9-2), the 5th seed in the 5A playoffs, advances to the 5A quarterfinals to face No. 20 Ruston.
There were several intangibles on the line for Hahnville (9-3) beyond the obvious of it being an elimination contest. Zachary had knocked Hahnville out of the postseason in three of the past four years, and this was a chance for the Tigers to not only knock out a defending state champion, but to finally best a team that has become a true nemesis for the program.
This was also a season of great expectations for the Tigers, who began the season 8-0 and had true state championship aspirations.
Hahnville trailed 21-12 in the second half but surged back on a 95-yard touchdown pass by Drew Naquin to Darryle Evans with six minutes left, putting the Tigers back in business. It was the final big performance in a season of them for Evans, who finished with more than 200 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The Hahnville defense came up with the stop their team needed with just under three minutes left at the HHS 42.
Hahnville drove into range for White, who had made two field goals already on the night. The penalty cost him what would have been the third, and his biggest as a Tiger.
Keilon Brown paced the Zachary offense, as he has often over the past four seasons. Brown passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns on the night, with Chris Hilton his top receiver with 85 yards.
It was a back and forth game all night long. Zachary led 14-12 at halftime, and the only two score advantage by either team came when the Broncos scored thereafter to take a 21-12 lead.
For Saltaformaggio, it was tough knowing a class of seniors that helped guide the HHS program to 47 wins in their tenure would see their run end in such a difficult way.
“When you’re playing at the two time defending champion on the road, you have to be able to deliver the knockout blow. We had a couple of chances and didn’t get it,” Saltaformaggio said. “But our kids stayed in the game and played as hard as I’ve ever seen ’em play. It’s just unfortunate what happened at the end … there were tears of agony.
“You can only hope you can come back and use it as fuel to drive your program. But it’s devastating. It’s gonna stay with us for a long, long time.”