For much of the first half, Hahnville hung tough with No. 2 ranked Destrehan as the two teams waged the same kind of intense competition fans have come to expect from the Battle on the River.
But as the night went on, Destrehan imposed its will.
The Wildcats’ defense kept Hahnville from ever getting on track offensively and the Tigers’ defense ultimately wore down against a heavy dose of the Destrehan running game, as Destrehan secured a dominating 41-3 victory over its archrival at home in the District 7-5A opener for both teams.
Daniel Blood scored two touchdowns to lead an otherwise balanced scoring effort by the Wildcats (4-0, 1-0), who scored each of its other touchdowns via the run.
The Wildcats loaded the box heavily most of the night, forcing Hahnville (2-2, 0-1) to look downfield for answers. But the Destrehan pass rush combined with the play of a strong group of defensive backs led to several short Hahnville possessions, which in turn gave the Destrehan offense the opportunity to grind down the Hahnville front seven as the game went on.
“We just listened to our coaches,” said Destrehan defensive tackle Jairin McCall. “We looked for the signs he gave us. He really told us to blitz most of the game, because they run screens and they run the ball a lot up the middle. I was there to shut down the middle, and we did a good job getting it done as a team.
“It feels good to get this one. But there’s a lot more work to be done. We’re trying to get to the Dome.”
Said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott, “We know they have some big play guys on the offensive side. We wanted to limit their big plays and rally to the ball, and we got the job done tonight … we had to be gap sound and play with good technique up front.”
Destrehan drove into Hahnville territory on its first possession of the night, but the Tigers ultimately held firm and forced a DHS punt. Destrehan forced Hahnville to punt as well, but Hahnville got a big play defensively when Temaj Mitchell recovered a fumble.
The Tigers couldn’t advance the ball, however, and on its ensuing 4th down punt, a bad snap threatened to set Destrehan up deep in Hahnville territory. Tigers punter Dakota Morales made an impressive play to recover the ball, evade the rush and get off a solid kick.
But receiving the ball was one of the state’s most lethal punt returners: Blood, who shook free down the sideline to post the game’s first touchdown, giving Destrehan a 7-0 lead with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
“We’d killed some drives early with mistakes and penalties … That (return) kind of got us jumpstarted,” Scott said.
Hahnville was forced to punt again on its next possession, but Morales came up big with a punt Hahnville was able to down at the Destrehan 1. Destrehan punted the ball back to HHS, who took over with great field position, and the Tigers’ Dylan Patterson capped the next drive with a field goal that cut the lead to 7-3.
Destrehan responded in the second quarter. Jai Eugene found Leslie Jefferson downfield for a 25-yard gain, highlighting a drive that Eugene himself capped with a touchdown run that made it 14-3 with 6:43 left in the first half.
Hahnville was unable to find points on its next drive, and the DHS defense forced another quick punt. Destrehan’s next touchdown came just over 90 seconds of game time later as Brandon Freeman shot through the line for a 24-yard touchdown run, making it 20-3. The extra point was no good.
The Tigers found footing at the end of the first half, driving deep into Destrehan territory. But faced with a fourth down just before halftime, Patterson’s field goal attempt hit the left post and was no good, leaving it a 17-point deficit at the half.
“It was really a tale of two halves,” said Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet. “We probably should have come away with something there at the end of the half. A number of times throughout then night, we failed to do the little things we need to do to get to where we want to be … we left (the defense) out there for way too much time and for too many plays. Even if you aren’t coming away with points, a few first downs (on a drive), that’s a win. But we had too many instances where we couldn’t do that.”
Hahnville’s first drive of the second half ended when Destrehan defensive back Kevin Adams intercepted a Ryan Gregson deep pass.
Shane Lee capped the ensuing drive with a 1-yard touchdown for Destrehan that made it 27-3 with 7:34 left in the third.
Blood scored his second touchdown of the night on a pass from Eugene, converting on a physical catch and run play that made it 34-3.
The Tigers converted a fourth and 1 at midfield on a Chase Brooks 11-yard run on a draw, after Gregson connected with Calvin Smith for a nice gain. Gregson’s pass to Joshua Joseph set the Tigers up in the Wildcats’ redzone. A Jairin McCall sack pushed Hahnville back though, and Hahnville came up empty after facing a fourth and 20.
Trey Nixon scored the final touchdown for the Wildcats to cap things off on the night.
Luquet said his message to his young Tigers was a simple one after the game.
“We have to move on,” he said. “We have to get ready for next week. East St. John doesn’t care about how we’re feeling.”