It was a physical, tough battle between Hahnville and Destrehan in their rivalry battle Monday night, but in the end the Tigers did as they’ve done for most of the season – prove to be too much for their competition in the end.
Hahnville scored three goals in the final 25 minutes of play as HHS secured a 5-1 non-district victory in the regular season finale for both teams.
Both teams qualified for the playoffs. No. 14 seeded Hahnville is set to host No. 19 Byrd Friday at 5:30. No. 32 Destrehan traveled to face No. 1 Jesuit Wednesday evening – the latter game featured a rematch of district rivals. Jesuit eliminated DHS 4-0.
In the HHS/DHS rivalry game, Owen Fontenot scored two goals for Hahnville, while Brendan Kenney, Justo Nunez and Daniel Bowman rounded out the scoring for the Tigers (13-2-4).
“It’s always a tough battle with the rivalry, on both sides of the river – everyone gets their adrenaline pumping and its a lot of fun,” said Fontenot, one of the state’s leading goal scorers this season.
“At halftime, we talked as a group as to what we could do better to put this away in the second half, and we were able to get it done.”
Added Kenney, “I thought we started strong and didn’t let up. We really stuck to our gameplan, combined to put the ball in the middle and pass it up.”
Donald Thomas supplied the goal for Destrehan.
Hahnville led 2-0 on goals by Kenney and Fontenot before Thomas found the net for DHS to make it a 2-1 halftime score.
That held until Bowman scored with just over 25 minutes left to play to give Hahnville a bit of breathing room at 3-1.
With two minutes left, Fontenot shot low and into the net to extend the lead to 4-1. Nunez scored the fifth and final goal after a penalty in the box gave HHS a free kick at point blank range – he made good and Hahnville was officially off to celebrate its fifth straight win.
Hahnville coach Matt Oubre said the Tigers were able to implement some new wrinkles to the gameplan that should serve them well as they look to advance in the playoffs.
“I wanted to keep the focus just on us … we’ve worked on some things in the last month or so and implemented that tonight, some things that should add to our flexibility as a team. We played in a couple of different formations in the first half and in the second half we stuck to the one we’ve been working on – it was good to see us execute what we’ve been practicing,” Oubre said.
Having a match as intense as the Hahnville/Destrehan rivalry yields just before the playoffs can be a double-edged sword – one welcomes the test but at the same time does not want to enter round one too physically or emotionally taxed. He said in this case, he believes it was exactly what his team needed.
“I think this is a great game to prepare us for a playoff game … emotions were high. The Destrehan guys know our guys. Both sides really wanted to win.”
Destrehan head coach Jhovanny Santamaria said that a couple of early mistakes put his team in chase mode the rest of the night.
“The first six or seven minutes of the game and we’re down 2-0 … we never give up and we were still pushing,” he said. “We did a good job trying to pressure them and we had a number of opportunities that we just missed on.”
Finishing those chances has been the X-factor that a very young team has been attempting to solve all season, Santamaria said.
“(Thomas) scored the goal for us, he’s a freshman … you look at our games much of the year or games we’ve tied, they’ve been 2-1, 2-2, 2-0. We’re very young up top and we’re struggling to score. The difference tonight, Hahnville finished their chances. They’re a very solid, physical team. And we had our chances – that’s just been the story of our season.”
Destrehan (6-10-2) has grown over the course of the season, however: the Wildcats entered the playoffs playing their best soccer, winners of four of their last six matches.
The story for Hahnville, meanwhile, had something of a tragic end in the 2022-23 season. A dramatic late goal by Kenney forced overtime in a first round battle with visiting Northshore last season, but the Panthers ultimately answered and moved on.
Most of the players on this Tigers team played on that squad. Oubre said there’s no doubt the tough loss has been used as fuel.
“I think that (playoff) experience from last year has paid off,” Oubre said. “We’ve had to come back, had to fight back in some games this year. There’s only about three or four guys who stepped on the field (Monday) who didn’t play in that game.”