RB Emery piles up nearly 200 scrimmage yards, CB Smith forces three turnovers
The hype and discussion heading into the annual Hahnville-Destrehan rivalry showdown had much less to do with the on-field matchup than usual — but this battle was as toe-to-toe and relentless as ever.
The Tigers rallied back from a 14-0 deficit to eventually take a 15-14 lead, but two Destrehan touchdowns in the game’s final 15 minutes delivered the Wildcats a 28-15 victory at Tiger Stadium, avenging its loss to their archrival a year earlier in Destrehan and notching one in the win column in the opening week of District 7-5A play.
The “will he or won’t he” saga revolving around Hahnville transfer quarterback Andrew Robison turned out to be the latter, as he did not suit up for the Tigers Friday night. But there was plenty of talent on display on both sides of the ball, including Destrehan’s John Emery, who posted nearly 200 yards from scrimmage and galloped for a game-sealing 14-yard touchdown run with 9:33 left in the game.
Emery was voted the game’s MVP, and he said after last year’s loss, the Wildcats walked on the field with no intentions of dropping a second straight to their cross-parish rival.
“We had a grudge coming into this one,” Emery said.
Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux acknowledged the extra distractions that surrounded this game, but said the players on both sides made the most of the rivalry spotlight.
“They were overshadowed this week with everything involving (Robison), but there are a lot of real good players in this (school) district and I think you saw that on both sides tonight,” Robicheaux said.
It looked like Destrehan (3-1, 1-0) might run away with the game early on after posting two quick touchdowns in the first quarter on J.R. Blood touchdown passes: the first on a 64-yard connection with Emery, then another on a 30 yarder to Carson Rieder. Hahnville fumbled away the ensuing possession, and with 3:18 left in the first quarter, the Wildcats threatened to take a commanding three score lead.
But Hahnville forced a stop, then started to click on offense. Andrew Naquin sparked a drive when he found Jerry Spencer for a big chunk of yardage, combining with a personal foul penalty to put HHS at the Destrehan 25. Jace Meyers took control of the drive from there and capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7.
John Pearsall kept the Tigers (1-3, 0-1) going, intercepting a pass on Destrehan’s next drive to set up Hahnville again in Destrehan territory.
“Everyone counts us out, and we look at that at adversity,” said Pearsall. “So we try and fight through it. Even though the score wasn’t on our side, we still learned things … and we’ve gotta win these next 7 games we’ve got.”
But this time, cornerback Dontrell Smith answered with a big play of his own, intercepting Naquin on a deep throw to short circuit the Tigers’ drive. It was one of three turnovers Smith had a hand in, with two interceptions and a fumble recovery highlighting a night he was most often locked head to head in coverage with top HHS receiver Jha’Quan Jackson.
“We were jawing back and forth all game,” Smith said with a smile. “(It’s been like that) since the summer. He’s a great wide receiver, but I don’t doubt myself. I’m a confident corner.”
Hahnville struck nonetheless. Destrehan started its ensuing drive on its own 4 and a holding call in the endzone resulted in a safety. The Tigers seemed to have momentum completely on their side when Jha’Quan Jackson appeared to surge up the middle of the field and coast in for a kickoff return that set the Hahnville student section ablaze, but it was called back for holding and Destrehan took a 14-9 lead into halftime.
The Tigers marched down the field and took nearly eight minutes off the clock to begin the second half, taking a lead on Meyers’ second touchdown run of the night, a six-yarder, to make it 15-14 Hahnville — that capped a 16 play drive and was part of an 80-yard effort by Meyers, who began the year as the Tigers’ third running back.
“Jace is very multidimensional,” said Hahnville interim coach Mike Silva. “He can catch passes, he can block … he runs that inside zone better than all of ‘em. He makes a couple quick moves and gets his head down.”
Destrehan needed a big play and got one on a beautiful pass from Blood to Quinton Torbor that went for a 37-yard touchdown, putting Destrehan up 20-15 and giving DHS a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“It was a great pass … when we needed a big play they came up with a big play,” Robicheaux said.
Silva acknowledged many likely felt Destrehan was a heavy favorite entering the game, but that his players were determined to fight.
“Our kids gave us everything they had. With everything our kids have battled through, this was important to them. You saw that,” Silva said.
Destrehan rushed for 231 yards on the night with Emery topping 120 yards and Kyle Edwards a shade under the century mark.
“They wore us down in the second half,” Silva said. “Those two big backs are just monsters.”
Though there was question – and much discussion both in the community and in the media – as to whether Robison or Naquin would start, Pearsall said it didn’t change the team’s approach.
“Whoever’s at quarterback, 1(Robison) or 10 (Naquin), we’re supporting them no matter what,” he said. “That’s our teammate. Those guys are our brothers.”
Emery said his team heard the talk too, but that they kept their focus on the task at hand.
“We’ve got a quarterback too,” said Emery, with a nod to Blood. “Playing with a group like this … everyone’s together, there are no bad vibes. It’s a blessing.”