Running game and defense are the hallmarks of a Nick Saltaformaggio coached team, historically.
And the 2019 Hahnville Tigers are certainly Saltaformaggio’s team.
That much was clear on Friday night as the Tigers’ defense earned a shutout, while Darryle Evans led Hahnville on the ground to a 21-0 victory over visiting district rival East St. John.
For the second consecutive week, Hahnville turned things around on a team that bested the Tigers a year ago. In fact, in 2018, it was ESJ securing victory in a shutout of Hahnville.
But this time around, in Tiger Stadium, the Wildcats had no answers for a swarming Hahnville defense, led by Adonis Friloux, who tallied three sacks, and safety Brandon Comardelle, who intercepted two passes on the night—including a pick six return for a touchdown. Hahnville allowed just over 100 total yards of offense.
“We challenged our defense all week,” Saltaformaggio said. “What we did last week (allowing Terrebonne to jump ahead early) over the first 10 minutes was unacceptable. So we challenged them to go back to being what you were. You are what you are. You’re not the team from the first 10 minutes of that game. You’re the defense that shut out Denham, that held Mandeville to 13. And that’s who we are.”
Hahnville (5-0, 2-0) remained unbeaten with the win. It’s the first 5-0 start for the Tigers in the past decade. East St. John dropped to 3-2 (1-1).
Comardelle’s interception for a score came in the third quarter, his team up 14-0 and with East St. John passer Sean Shelby pressured in his own endzone. It was the first career interception for the senior, who was the team’s leading rusher last season before converting from running back to safety. He didn’t have to wait long for his second interception, which came on East St. John’s very next drive, catching the ball off a deflection in the opposite endzone.
He said he felt a rush on that touchdown return.
“I could feel that adrenaline,” Comardelle said. “Seeing everyone in the stands, the energy from the crown.”
How did it compare to scoring as a running back? Old habits die hard, it seems.
“It didn’t feel different. Once I get the ball in my hands, I go,” he said.
Speaking of making things happen with the ball: Evans did that and then some, rushing for 194 yards and the first two touchdowns of the night, scoring from 14 and 11 yards out, respectively, as Hahnville carried a 14-0 lead into halftime.
“I learned a long time ago from Henry Rando, in big ball games, it’s best play, best player. Best play was inside zone. Best player is No. 2 (Evans),” Saltaformaggio said.