It’s a unique scenario when two River Parish and district arch-rivals square off, both fighting to avoid an 0-2 start, but that’s exactly what faced Hahnville and East St. John in Reserve on Friday night.
The battle that ensued was physical, hard-hitting and contested in the trenches – and it came down to the final plays, with the Wildcats’ defense earning a stop with less than 10 seconds left to turn Hahnville away and capture an 8-3 victory.
“We lost that game on offense, early in the game,” said Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet. “We’re driving, three times, and we get a bad snap, a fumbled exchange … that can’t happen. Our defense played lights out tonight … it simply cannot happen. This is a tough one to swallow because our defense came to play and offensively, we didn’t get the job done.”
Hahnville’s hopes appeared to be dashed after East St. John’s Dwayne Brown intercepted Donovan Friloux on a pass over the deep middle – Brown raced toward the Hahnville endzone in an attempt to score with less than five minutes left, but HHS receiver Tate White got to Brown in pursuit and forced another fumble, this time recovered by the Tigers – and giving Hahnville one final chance to score.
HHS’ Cole Villasenor converted a 4th and 1 on a sweep. Then, after a third down sack of Friloux by Jacorey Robertson, Friloux found White on the sideline to convert a 4th and 9.
Time became a factor, however. Hahnville seemed to have room for Villasenor on a screen pass at the ESJ 25, but ESJ quickly converged to make the stop, necessitating a Tigers’ spike. A third down drop left HHS with potentially its final down with 13 seconds remaining on the clock and a fourth down and 8.
Hahnville dialed up a wheel route to Villasenor that he extended to catch, successfully, but he came down just short of the first down marker, turning the ball over on downs and cementing a win for the Wildcats.
East St. John’s Kylon Harris scored out of the Wildcat formation on a first quarter touchdown run to push ESJ ahead with what turned out to be the winning points. The touchdown was set up by some strong running by Cortez Fisher. Delvin Brown scored on a two-point conversion to lift ESJ to an 8-0 lead.
Hahnville (0-2, 0-2 in District 7-5A) got on the board for the first time on the first play of the fourth quarter, Tate White’s 23-yard field goal making it 8-3. But Hahnville had several drives throughout the night that seemed promising but were short-circuited by mistakes. A deep pass by Donovan Friloux to White resulted in a first and goal from the 1, but East St. John allowed no points. A drive midway through the third quarter Villasenor start to heat up in the running game, but a fumble at the ESJ 20 ended that push as well. White’s field goal came after ESJ’s Demetrick Leboeuf tackled Troy Kendrick in the backfield on a third-and-one from the ESJ 5.
A week after similar ball security issues plagued the Tigers in their loss to Destrehan, Luquet found the trend very concerning. Entering Friday’s game, he was optimistic after what he felt was the strongest week of practice he’s overseen while at Hahnville, with a team determined to right the ship after an opening week loss.
“We put the ball on the ground again,” he said. “You can’t turn it over. And if you want to have success, you have to strike when the opportunities are there. You can’t just let them pass by.”
For East St. John (1-1, 1-1), the win was cathartic. Last week, ESJ lost by one to Thibodaux after not being able to even practice in pads – the equipment arrived that Friday before gametime. Like Hahnville, the Wildcats’ community was ravaged by Hurricane Ida, and the football field is one of the few places its players have found a sense of normalcy.
“You know it means a lot,” said Brandon Brown, ESJ head coach. “I’m extremely proud of those guys. We talked about it all week … we were playing for something much bigger than us – our community … (last week’s loss) was mentally draining. It’s all been mentally draining, for me as well, so I knew it was for our kids.”
Brown said there was little surprise that both teams took the field ready to fight for every inch.
All week, we talked about that. We could not be 0-2,” Brown said. “We couldn’t leave here 0-2, but the flip side is, as I told them, Hahnville isn’t going to come here and want to leave 0-2. They’re going to come here to play. And they did. I’m proud of our guys and their resilience … they lined up with everything going on and just continue to fight.”