Nick Saltaformaggio’s Hahnville teams have long established a distinct trend – his Tigers find their way early, absorb a few lumps along the way, and finish the regular season with a fury.
While it’s surely caused some early season headaches for Saltaformaggio and his coaching staff, it hasn’t been such a bad deal for Hahnville, which has effectively entered each postseason with great momentum and established as a legitimate threat.
But upon review of the Tigers 2019 schedule, Saltaformaggio said that another slow start is, flat out, not an option.
“We have to find a way to win early, because the back half of our schedule is really rough,” said Saltaformaggio. “If we do what I think we’re capable of doing, I think it’ll be a really strong season. But we’ll know early on … if we start 1-3, 2-3 again, we’re probably not a playoff team.”
Off the bat, one will notice the biggest difference in the schedule comes with the annual Hahnville-Destrehan super rivalry matchup. For the past four seasons, that game has kicked off District 7-5A play for both teams.
This year? Week 10 – the final week of the regular season.
Were both teams to play to their peak, that could well be a district championship matchup with even more hype – is that even possible? – than usual. But for a coach rightfully most concerned about his team’s best avenue for success, Saltaformaggio says he could have done without the clash falling on Week 10.
“Honestly, I don’t like it, because we play Destrehan a week before the playoffs, if we qualify,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’re playing them a week after our district bye, and that’s gonna be no picnic, either.”
Much as Destrehan did for its bye over the past two seasons, Hahnville found a Week 9 dance partner in Jesuit.
“It’s hard to set a game for that bye when you’re Hahnville,” Saltaformaggio said. “We have to play well in the front half of our schedule, because you’ve got Jesuit/Destrehan waiting in those final weeks.”
Hahnville opens with road games against Denham Springs and Mandeville before returning to Boutte for its home opener against Higgins.
Denham Springs, who HHS defeated in the opening round of the Class 5A postseason in 2017, has continued to improve, while Mandeville boasts Division I talent on its offense at quarterback and receiver.
Both teams air the ball out and figure to be a trial by fire for a Hahnville secondary that Saltaformaggio said has a lot to prove this season.
“Where we are right now, we have to get better in the secondary,” Saltaformaggio said. “It’s a weak point until we prove otherwise.”
Hahnville will open district play against a Terrebonne team that went 9-1 last season, then HHS will host East St. John. Both opponents handed Hahnville difficult losses in 2018.
“Terrebonne beat us 41-0, and East St. John won 21-7 in a game that honestly wasn’t as close as that score indicates,” Saltaformaggio said. “We have to find a way to have success in those games and give ourselves a chance.”
Hahnville goes on the road in Week 7 for a matchup with Thibodaux. Then the Tigers host three in a row against Thibodaux, Central Lafourche and Jesuit, before going to Destrehan to close the season.
Saltaformaggio said success early on – or at any point in the season, realistically – will come down to cleaning up the team’s weaknesses from a year ago. Turnovers, penalties and mental errors cost Hahnville chances in several games, and the team will have to shore up its kicking game early after the departure of both its placekicker and punter from 2018.
While the schedule is a difficult one, the presence of several teams Saltaformaggio feels are a threat to post strong records is a positive, both from the standpoint of testing his team and from one of garnering power points and playoff seeding, he said.
You’d love to go 10-0, but I’d rather go 8-2 or 7-3, but with a top 8 or so seed, than unbeaten and losing playoff positioning,” he said. “With the non-district opponents, you’d like to win them all, but if you can even beat two of Jesuit, Mandeville and Denham, that will get you a lot of points.”
Hahnville 2019 Schedule
8/29 – Jamboree
9/6 – at Denham Springs
9/13 – at Mandeville
9/20 – vs. L.W. Higgins
9/27 – at. Terrebonne*
10/4 – vs. East St. John*
10/11 – at Thibodaux*
10/18 – vs. Central Lafourche*
10/25 – vs. H.L. Bourgeois*
11/1 – vs. Jesuit
11/8 – at Destrehan*
*Denotes district game