The mantra has been clear for the Hahnville Tigers this week.
“One more,” said Tigers head coach Daniel Luquet.
Hahnville (3-5, 2-2) is preparing to go on the road for a date with Terrebonne (6-3, 2-3), with the Tigers’ season on the line.
Luquet is confident that with a victory, the team will almost certainly find itself within the top 28 teams in power point ranking, which is what a playoff berth would require. Other results throughout the state will determine exactly what seed HHS would ultimately net.
With a loss, however, Hahnville’s streak of 23 consecutive postseason appearances would come to an end – one of the longest streaks in the state. The last time Hahnville failed to qualify for the playoffs was the 1999 season. One year later, Hahnville reached the 2000 postseason as a No. 4 seed, kicking off the run.
There is a lot on the line this Friday night.
“This program is up there as far as consecutive playoff berths,” said Luquet. “We’ve talked about that – there are lots of guys here with an uncle, a dad, a brother who played for this team and were part of that streak. We’ve played some hard teams and have had some tough things go our way … I know right now, we’re playing good football. We have a group that watches film, practices hard and does things the right way. I feel we’re in a good place and I know we’ll be ready.”
Hahnville has faced two different defending state champions this season, Lutcher and Destrehan, along with strong contenders in Mandeville and Newman. That’s one reason why the team’s power rating remains in playoff contention despite a 1-5 start and a no-contest against Thibodaux – a game the Tigers led 20-12 before the game was called due to gunfire outside of the stadium. Were that game to have been finished with a Tigers’ win, Friday’s game would likely matter only for seeding.
“We made the best decision for our program and our school,” Luquet said.
Hahnville understood it entered the final three weeks of the regular season needing to run the table. Two down, on that front. This week’s game projects to be the most challenging of the three matchups, however.
Coached by former West St. John standout Tyler Lewis, Terrebonne is a vastly improved team than a year ago when THS went 3-7. Lewis has guided a very explosive team in his second year at the program’s helm, and a dangerous one. Terrebonne captured its signature win thus far this season two weeks ago when it felled East St. John 21-18.
But in Terrebonne’s annual rivalry game against cross-parish rival Thibodaux, Terrebonne fell 26-21 and absorbed its second loss of the season last week.
Luquet said Terrebonne quarterback Owen Oliver has made a big difference in his first full season as starter. That caveat of “full season” is necessary as Oliver made one start last season – in the final game of that regular season, a 27-7 loss to Hahnville.
Terrebonne fought Hahnville tooth and nail in that first half before HHS pulled away after halftime. Oliver’s start came as a surprise.
“We thought they were going to play a runner there, and they brought (Oliver) up from the JV. He’s more of a traditional passer. His growth has allowed them to do some special things,” Luquet said. “He’s elusive – he doesn’t look to run, he’s looking to extend plays and give his receivers opportunities. He’s left-handed, and that changes some things – you don’t see it a lot.”
LSU commitment Kylan Billiot presents matchup problems for most teams at 6’4 with speed. Running back Jayce Johnson is a headache for defensive players and coaches as well.
“They have some special kids. (Johnson) reminds me of (Trenton Chaney) at Lutcher. He’s explosive, they move him around and try to find mismatches.”
On the other side of the ball, defensive tackle Talan Bingham leads a defensive front that has keyed a lot of Terrebonne’s success.
“He has a high motor and he’s a big kid,” Luquet said. “He’s physical. They move him around on the line and look for weaknesses in your front. I think everything starts with him. They’re real good on the defensive side.”
Stylistically, Terrebonne’s big lineman clog holes and give their linebackers chances to shoot through and make plays.
So much, then, will come down to how often Hahnville can find a way to get running back Calvin Smith to the second level of the defense. When that happens – as has been the case throughout the season for Hahnville – good things tend to materialize for the Tigers.
“Our best football player is Calvin Smith,” said Luquet. “He’s a man amongst boys. Defensively, they’re big up front, but if we get past that first level, there’s not a soul who wants to tackle No. 9.”