Holding just a two point lead with two minutes left to play, Destrehan needed its defense to come up big one more time against Hahnville Friday night — and it delivered.
A ferocious Wildcats pass rush was the difference in the fourth quarter as Destrehan earned a 23-21 victory at home against archrival Hahnville.
Hahnville finishes the season 8-2 overall and 5-1 in District 7-5A, sharing the District 7-5A championship with East St. John. For Destrehan, meanwhile, there was no district title to earn after two midseason losses in 7-5A play. But after losing three games in four weeks from Weeks 4 to 7, the Wildcats (7-3, 4-2) now roll into the playoffs on a run of three strong victories, two in decisive fashion and the third over their archrival.
“Our kids played so hard tonight. I’m so happy for these guys,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said. “They kept pushing and pushing and pushing Coach Salt does a great job and (Hahnville) has a great football team, obviously. I couldn’t be prouder of our football team tonight.”
Hahnville engineered a scoring drive in the fourth quarter to cut a nine-point Destrehan lead to two and then got the ball back with a chance to go ahead. But Destrehan sent heat at Hahnville quarterback Drew Naquin time and time again, with linebacker Dylan Whitted among the Tigers’ biggest headaches — he had two sacks in the fourth quarter alone, appearing to score on one of them on a fumble recovery, though it was not to be as it was ruled down by contact and Hahnville retained possession.
“God gave me ability … I was able to get in the backfield and I did what I had to do,” said Whitted, who finished the game with a team-high three sacks. “I did what we game-planned.”
Destrehan forced Hahnville into a 3rd down and 28 yards or more three different times in the final quarter.
“(Defensive coordinator Malter Scobel) had a great gameplan. We were going after (Naquin) if he was gonna try to throw it. Our guys did a tremendous job and made big plays when they had to,” Robicheaux said.
Hahnville took a lead early in the second half after forcing a three-and-out on Destrehan’s first possession. Alijah Hamilton made a long punt return inside the Destrehan 10. Darryle Evans scored from the Wildcat formation, taking a direct snap in from a yard out to make it a 14-10 Hahnville lead.
Destrehan answered with a long drive to recapture the lead. A key conversion came on a third and six when Hahnville was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Destrehan made the Tigers pay on a Damarius Jackson 5-yard pass to Quincy Brown on a quick slant that made it 16-14—the extra point attempt was no good.
A turnover began to spell Hahnville’s undoing when Destrehan’s Jhase Gooden recovered a fumble in Tigers’ territory. This time it was Kyle Edwards scoring from 17 yards out with just 3:26 left in the third quarter to make it 23-14. That was set up by a third down conversion throw from Jackson to Brown for 11 yards.
With the lead, Destrehan unleased its pass rush full force upon Hahnville — on the game, DHS sacked the junior seven times. The Tigers fought back though and found some footing on its second to last drive of the night, finishing off a solid drive with a pass from Naquin to Dakota Williams pulling Hahnville within two with 4:22 left.
The Tigers stopped the run on the ensuing Destrehan drive to force a punt and get the ball back. But the Wildcats pushed the Tigers backwards and sent pressure on fourth and long, with Kelvin Lea landing the final blow and sealing the win on a sack.
Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said while a number of Tigers made key plays when needed, ultimately there were too many mistakes to emerge with the win. After starting 8-0, Hahnville enters the playoffs with two consecutive losses.
“Hat’s off to Destrehan first of all. I told our kids during the week this would be kind of a program-defining moment … they just have a better program than we do right now. It’s just very disappointing. Their kids made plays when they needed to. Some of our kids made plays too. But the turnovers … you can’t turn it over against a good team. I’m at a loss for words, frankly.”
During Hahnville’s final drive, several on the Tigers’ side of the field — be it fans, coaches or players — felt wide receiver Jerry Spencer was interfered with on one attempt to him over the middle that could have given the Tigers a chance to continue a march toward a game-winning score. Saltaformaggio was among them.
“I thought it was clearly pass interference. They didn’t see it that way,” Saltaformaggio said.
While Edwards and Evans both found the endzone — Evans’ 37 yard touchdown in the first half gave him two on the night—both teams stacked the line of scrimmage all night long in an attempt to eliminate the run. Edwards finished with 81 yards on the night and earned game MVP honors awarded by the Great American Rivalry Series. Evans finished with 74 yards for Hahnville.
“We talk every week about stopping the run and running the ball being the key,” Robicheaux said. “Tonight (both teams) had the same gameplan. It was tough going in there. (Evans) got loose on a good run once, but beyond that I thought we held up pretty good.”
Destrehan led 10-7 at halftime, on a 19-yard Jackson to Brown touchdown pass and a Will Bryant 34-yard field goal.