It’s that time once again.
It may feel like all of St. Charles Parish is in attendance on Friday night as Destrehan hosts archrival Hahnville for the 2022 chapter of their heated series. It’s one of the most storied rivalries in not just the state of Louisiana, but one recognized nationally among the best of the best prep football rivalries.
This year’s showdown sees Destrehan (3-0) enter as the No. 2 ranked team in the Class 5A poll, on a three-game win streak that has seen the Wildcats outscore their three opponents by a combined 133-8 margin. The most impressive of those three wins arguably came on Friday night, when Destrehan went on the road and dismantled a strong East Ascension squad, leading 35-0 after just a quarter of play.
Hahnville, meanwhile, has picked itself up after a rocky beginning of the season that saw the Tigers lose their starting quarterback, Donovan Friloux, to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason jamboree, then fall 35-14 at home to Newman in Week 1. Since then, Hahnville has straightened things out with new quarterback Ryan Gregson in Friloux’s stead, winning a pair of tight games against Mandeville and Northshore.
Destrehan has gotten the better of Hahnville over the recent history of the series, winning the past four turns since the Tigers’ victory in 2017. Destrehan is 9-1 over the past 10 games in the series.
Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet said he knows his team is aiming to shock the world, as the Wildcats will enter as the favorite.
“We’re up against a team that nobody is giving us a chance of beating,” Luquet said. “I like where we are mentally with it. We’ve been in some tough battles already this year and we’ve seen some growth from our young team.
“No matter what the scenario is, these games take on a life of their own.”
Part of the reason for that, Luquet believes, is simply familiarity. Even for the youngest players on each roster, this will be far from the first time they’ve seen their opponents play in person.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that our kids, be is basketball, baseball, football … they’ve known each other and played with and against each other for a long time,” Luquet said. “There are no surprises as far as what each player can bring to a game. We know how good their guys are, they know how good our guys are. Our coaching staffs know one another well.
“As big as this community is, in a lot of ways it’s really a small community. They know what we’re about and we know what they’re about, and that makes it fun.”
Both Luquet and Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott said for as hot as this rivalry is, it’s really all about community, and that both sides want to see the other do well …
“Outside of this week,” both Luquet and Scott said.
“I think everyone is excited,” Scott said. “For one, it’s nice to get back to a normal game, with no restrictions and what time we were scheduled to play. Plus, this is the first one we’ve had at home in a little while, so that’s exciting. A lot of people get very into it … from grocery stores to barber shops to restaurants, a lot of people are related on both sides of the river. This is basically a family affair, cousins against cousins, things of that nature.”
When it comes to the on-field breakdown, Scott sees a Hahnville team that’s quickly adjusted well as Gregson has stepped in for Friloux.
“He’s done a really good job stepping in at quarterback,” Scott said. “He’s mobile and can make the throws they ask him to make. They have a lot of talent at wide receiver and running back, a lot of weapons around him. When they run it, there are a lot of good players they send at you. Five different guys touch the ball and they keep fresh legs back there. You can’t key on just one player.”
Dakota Williams, Scott said, is a dangerous playmaker.
“He’s got a lot of game experience and he’s the leader of that group,” Scott said. “He has the size to defeat press coverage and the speed to make plays down the field. We think he’s a complete player.”
When Destrehan has the ball, finding a way to neutralize Cincere Simmons as much as possible is a priority.
“His athleticism jumps off the screen,” Scott said. “His motor is always going. Then, their linebackers are very active, as are both defensive ends. The guys in the middle, they free up the linebackers to run and make plays.”
Luquet, conversely, sees a much-improved passing attack from Destrehan this season and credits quarterback Jai Eugene for the strides he’s made.
“It’s all about experience,” said Luquet of the senior who has started since his sophomore year. “He’s been running that offense a long time. We know he’s talented when he tucks it and runs. But one thing that you knew they’d need to do to get to the place they want to be is they needed to do a better job throwing the football. And Jai worked at it. He has trust in his guys and his ability to throw it, and it’s made him a better quarterback.”
To that end, Luquet said he knows offensive coordinator Greg Boyne looks to test the secondary.
“He’s gonna take shots,” Luquet said. “They have some really experienced, talented wide receivers. He’s gonna throw the ball and trust those guys, like Daniel Blood and Leslie Jefferson, to go get it and make plays. As good as Shane Lee and those backs are, as that offensive line is, we already know they’re going to run the rock. But you have to defend the whole field, all over the place, and if you do load the box to stop the run, they’ll go downfield.”
Defensively, Luquet said two juniors set the tone for a very talented, sound group.
“For me, everything starts with Kolaj Cobbins and Anthony Robinson,” Luquet said. “Those are fantastic football players and very strong tacklers. Really, that extends to the whole defense … they make you go 10 to 12 plays to score, and that’s hard to do. The speed and physicality that they play with makes it tough. We have to match their physicality.”