Few other buildings around the state can match Tiger Stadium’s festive atmosphere for a marquee football game – Friday night that’s exactly what will be on display in Boutte as the Newman Greenies, led by Arch Manning, roll into town to take on the Hahnville Tigers.
Manning, the second ranked player on the ESPN 300 list of the nation’s top recruits and a Texas commitment, is the son of Cooper Manning and the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning. The Greenies have been to two consecutive state semifinals in Division III, and 2022 represents the final chance for the Greenies to win it all with Manning at the helm.
A win over Hahnville would be a tremendous start to the kind of magical season Newman is hoping to make a reality. They’ll be facing a Tigers program with high hopes of its own – but one that’s wounded in the aftermath of last Thursday’s 29-0 jamboree loss to Jesuit, a final exhibition score far less concerning than an injury suffered by one of the team’s leaders and key players.
Senior quarterback Donovan Friloux suffered a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus as well as a bruised kneecap in the matchup, and will miss the entirety of the season. In his stead will be junior passer Ryan Gregson, who served as Friloux’s backup last year as well. He will undergo surgery in two weeks.
Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet said Friloux’s leadership hasn’t diminished in the wake of the very difficult situation, noting the latter has been spurring on his teammates with one key message: this team’s goals a week ago remain its goals today.
“It’s important for him to be with his guys, be on the sideline, helping Ryan learn the ways and helping us coach,” said Luquet. “He’s still the leader of this football team, no matter what cards have been dealt, and he’s living up to it. I’m very proud of him … Donovan’s reached out to these guys and told them, the season’s not over. The expectations are the same: make the playoffs, make a run, and whether it’s me or Ryan out there, our goals have not changed.”
Gregson knows this offense well.
“He’s been in our quarterback’s room for three years. One thing I’m not concerned at all about is him knowing the offense,” Luquet said. “He knows the offense, knows our checks, knows all the things you need to know for Friday nights leading up to it. He’s a very cerebral kid and he can make some throws. He hasn’t played a lot on Friday nights, so we’ll need to get him into the flow of the game … establish the run, get the ball in our playmakers’ hands so he can find his flow.”
As Hahnville adjusts to its internal changes, it will also gameplan how to stop a Newman offense led by one of the nation’s most heralded players.
As a freshman, Manning became the first 9th grader to start Newman’s season opener in 40 years. He passed for 2,407 yards, 34 touchdowns and was named MaxPreps’ National Freshman of the Year.
He’s only built on that, throwing for 5,731 yards and 72 touchdowns in his first three years of high school football.
In Newman’s 20-13 jamboree win over De La Salle, Manning rushed for a 34-yard touchdown, reminding observers that for all his arm talent, he has plenty of mobility.
“He’s his daddy’s kid, not his uncle’s,” joked Luquet. “He can hurt you (by running). We’ll have to be fundamentally sound and tackle well. We’ve got to be better this time around.”
But that famous Manning arm is still there.
“His release is outstanding. He doesn’t take many hits or sacks,” said Luquet. “He throws balls before the receivers are breaking. They have chemistry, he’s in sync with all of them. He understands football, coverages … there’s not much you can do to trick him.”
His top target is fellow senior Will Randle, an athletic, big-bodied player who’s ability to positively impact both the passing and running game has him on the Hahnville staff’s radar.
“He’s their X-factor … just because they do so much with him,” Luquet said. “They put him in the slot, single him up on one side, put him in the backfield and do some lead blocking stuff with him. Like Arch, he understands every single part of the playbook. He makes them tick.”
Defensively, Newman brings multiple looks – both 4-man and 3-man fronts, and will mix in the blitz. Primarily, however, Newman plays a bend-but-don’t-break style with two high safeties, attempting to make the offense execute its way down the field.
The key to much of this is defensive tackle Ramaj Waiters, a 6’1, 235 pound disruptor up front.
“He has some experience and plays tough. He’s a good football player,” said Luquet.
Hahnville is up for the challenge. Luquet said despite the loss of its leader, spirits are high for the chance to open this season under the lights of Tiger Stadium – and in the spotlight of the prep football world.
“It’s next man up,” Luquet said. “And I got a quote from a lady – a huge Tiger fan – recently. ‘We are Hahnville – Faith over Fear.’ We have faith in our guys. They’re not afraid. They’re ready to take the next step in this process and get out there on Friday night.”
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