Destrehan and Hahnville collide on Friday night for district crown

Destrehan's Jai Eugene (Photo by Sean McGraw) and Hahnville's Trey LaBranch (photo by Ellis Alexander)

It’s Destrehan. It’s Hahnville.

And it’s this week.

The unofficial – actually, why not just go ahead and call it official? –  Super Bowl of St. Charles Parish commences Friday night as Destrehan visits Tiger Stadium to tangle with Hahnville, with District 7-5A championship honors on the line – and all of the bragging rights that goes along with besting an archrival.

The stakes: if Destrehan (6-1, 5-0) wins, it will secure the district championship outright, with an unbeaten record in 7-5A play. If Hahnville (5-2, 4-1) wins, however, the potential for a two way shared district championship is on the table, as both teams would have one loss in district play. (East St. John, also would finish with one district loss, but will finish two games shy of finishing its district schedule after its last two regular season games were cancelled due to COVID-19 exposure and quarantine. Both were district games.)

Destrehan will attempt to keep a couple of streaks alive with a win on Friday. The Wildcats have rolled to six wins in a row since their opening week loss to St. Paul’s, and last week rolled over Central Lafourche on the road, 42-0. DHS would love to head into the playoffs with their seventh straight win, and what would potentially be a third straight win over Hahnville, following wins in 2018 and 2019.

Hahnville, meanwhile, is licking its wounds after unraveling in the second half last week in a 47-21 loss to Jesuit at Tad Gormley Stadium, which snapped a three-game winning streak for the Tigers.

In some ways, these teams are the inverse of one another. Hahnville brought back a high-scoring, experienced offensive group from last season, but a young defense full of first time starters. Destrehan retained the majority of its starters from a stellar defense in 2019, but only one full-time starter from its offensive group.

When the Tigers’ offense and the Wildcats’ defense are on the field, it will be the epitome of strength on strength: Hahnville has scored seven or more touchdowns in several games this season; Destrehan’s defense has allowed just seven touchdowns all season.

“You never know how these games will shake out,” said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott, who said his team began the week of practice in a business-like manner. “When you have a rivalry game, you really can throw all of the stuff on paper out. It’s truly based on execution. It’s also based on which team handles all of the pregame stuff, the hype of the game, the best.”

When Scott looks at Hahnville, he sees a team full of playmakers. Limiting any one player won’t be enough, he said. The most successful avenue, then, would be to make life difficult for HHS quarterback Andrew Naquin – but that is easier said than done, Scott said.

“He makes it all go,” Scott said. “He can make all of the throws from the pocket, he can get out and run and he can extend plays and make throws on the move,” Scott said. “Whenever you have a quarterback playing at his level, you’ve got a good shot. He’s definitely a veteran guy who has seen a lot of different looks over the past three seasons. You’re not going to fool him. He’s seen just about everything, so it comes down to execution for us.”

Running back Trey LaBranch, Scott said, can score any time he touches the ball.

“He can make you miss and he can run by you … you have to always be aware of him,” Scott said. “They have so many weapons, though, so it’s not like you can eliminate him or any other one person and stop their offense.”

Defensively, Scott has been impressed by Hahnville’s Cincere Simmons, the Tigers’ defensive lineman who has made a big impact both against the run in his first season with the team.

“He’s a really active player who causes a lot of problems,” Scott said. “From the interior he has a really good first step. And he’s not alone. (Chris Scott) is another guy who’s really stout. Then in the secondary, they’ll bring (Corey Lorio) over from the offense and you have to be mindful of him.”

Defensive back Alijah Hamilton, meanwhile, is a player Scott is familiar with from John Ehret. Hamilton transferred from Ehret to Hahnville two years ago, the season Scott arrived there as head coach, so their time overlapped.

“So I’m very familiar with him, and he’s a very good player,” Scott said.

Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet said the Destrehan defensive front is likely the best his team will have seen all year, once the season concludes.

“Jhase Gooden, Dylan Gibbs and Michael Jackson, those guys really do a good job controlling the line of scrimmage,” Luquet said.

When that front asserts dominance and creates havoc, then the Wildcats’ secondary is free to ball hawk. Last week, defensive back Jaden Harding returned an interception for a score to illustrate a prime example of how dangerous the back end of the DHS defense can be.

The most dangerous player among them is safety Tyler Morton.

“When they get pressure with five, with six, it gives guys like Tyler Morton a chance to do what he does on the back end, and it makes them really difficult,” Luquet said. “The reason they’ve given up so few scores is everything they do is so complimentary to one another.”

The Tigers’ defense, meanwhile, must be prepared to match Destrehan’s intensity and physicality, starting with running back Razan Keller and offensive lineman Eli Taffi.

Keller has asserted himself more and more as the season has gone on, and the powerful runner embodies the offense’s physical mindset. The same goes for Taffi, who was the Wildcats’ lone full-time starter that returned from the ‘19 offense.

“Razan was the second guy behind Kyle Edwards last year, but he got a lot of premier, significant carries in the playoffs, in the Dome,” Luquet said. “He’s not new to this rivalry.

“Up front, Eli Taffi anchors them … he’s a physical, strong kid. He has the guys around him playing well. He’s such a good guy to have up front and be that experienced returning veteran, because those guys rally around him. And they should, because he’s a heck of a player.”

Daniel Blood and Calvin Bullock are tough matchups at wide receiver, Luquet said. And Luquet sees quarterback Jai Eugene Jr. growing by leaps and bounds week after week in the Wildcats’ offense.

“You can’t say enough about Jai Eugene,” Luquet said. “I’ve known Jai’s dad a long time. He’s such a humble kid and just keeps getting better and better. They do a really good job calling plays to his strengths and it shows in their success.”

 

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