What a season for Hahnville.
Few outside the Tigers locker room likely saw the team as Domeward Bound after a loss to Brother Martin dropped them to 1-2. But from there, they proved everyone wrong, winning their next 11 games, breaking a losing streak to rival Destrehan, winning a district crown and becoming the first team in nearly 30 games to beat Acadiana in a playoff game at the Rams’ stadium.
Though the season did not end in a state championship victory, they gave us plenty to remember. Pooka Williams goes down in the annals of prep football history as he rushed for more than 3,100 yards this year and scored 40 times. I’ve covered high school sports for nearly a decade – he’s the best athlete I’ve seen on this level, and so many other writers and coaches, many of whom have been at this far longer than I, have echoed that thought. I feel privleged to have been covering this team for all three of his years as starter at Hahnville.
He, and all of the Tigers, accomplished so many great things this season. Coach Salt says there’s plenty of young talent on the way up as well and he believes the future is bright. I believe him, and look forward to seeing Hahnville’s next run to the Superdome. It may not be too long.
SAINTS LOSS TOUGH TO SWALLOW: When the Saints play in primetime, it almost always carries a big game feel along with it in this region. Entering last Thursday’s game with New Orleans visiting Atlanta, it was no different, with a heated rivalry with major playoff implications set to take place.
And yet it was extremely hard to watch.
It was hard to watch for reasons beyond a simple loss to a rival. This team will regroup and it shouldn’t result in major damage to its playoff chances, and maybe not even its division hopes.
But this game represented everything wrong with Thursday Night Football.
The Saints, who played a late afternoon game on Sunday leading into this short week, were dropping like flies in Atlanta. Alvin Kamara. A.J. Klein. Kenny Vaccaro. Trey Hendrickson. Senio Kelemente. David Onyemata. All knocked out of the game, with several other Saints being temporarily knocked out at different moments.
Correlating injuries — and sloppy play — to short rest on Thursday may or may not statistically bear out. Much smarter people than I might undertake that mission. But to listen to players themselves, it’s been a drum beat that seemingly gets louder by the year. They don’t believe it’s enough time for their bodies to recover.
Another reason it was hard to watch? The simple fact the Saints were once again scheduled to play on the road at all in their annual Thursday game. For whatever reason, this team is asked season after season to travel on that short week to face a difficult divisional foe. Since the NFL made Thursday Night Football a weekly event in 2011, the Saints have played five of their six Thursdays on the road.
Those games are clear disadvantages for the road squad since travel shortens their week even more. A team can overcome that, but it’s the closest thing to a “scheduled loss” you’ll find in the NFL.
Finally … and yes, this is what you came here for … the officiating was terrible and one-sided. 14 penalties on the Saints and just three on Atlanta, but if you wanted you could boil the game down to two calls in particular: a phantom roughing the passer call on Sheldon Rankins, who barely grazed Matt Ryan, and a kicking infraction on Wil Lutz’s end of half field goal attempt. The first led to one of Atlanta’s first two touchdowns on the night, the second directly took three points off New Orleans’ score. Payton said that call is nearly always preceded by a warning. Not on this night.
I expect the Saints to clean house at home in each of the next two games, one against a Jets team down its quarterback and the next against an Atlanta team likely walking into a buzzsaw. Sadly, those wins may not put the Saints in line for a bye, but for a victory last week that was all but taken away.