Hahnville preview: Explosive playmakers inspire high hopes for Tigers in 2022

Titus White of Hahnville

Hahnville’s 2021 season had a rocky start, but the Tigers found their groove quickly after that. A dramatic victory over De La Salle helped ignite a six-game win streak and another postseason berth for Hahnville.
Injuries and special teams mistakes caught up to the Tigers in the opening round of the playoffs, but 2022 brings a season of high hopes.

The Tigers bring experience back at several key positions on both sides of the ball and appear primed to merge an explosive offense with a defense that truly came together as a dominant unit over the course of last season.

Quarterback

Donovan Friloux began his prep career as the Tigers’ backup quarterback as a freshman, worked his way into the starting role as a junior and now steps in as a seasoned veteran who will conduct an offense loaded with explosive weapons. The senior was a dual threat in 2021 and was a particularly strong option in the redzone. He rushed 104 times for 282 yards and six scores. Through the air, he passed for 1,238 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions, his numbers climbing as the year went on.

But Hahnville suffered a major blow in its jamboree matchup with Jesuit – Friloux suffered a season-ending knee injury, ending his on-field career with the Tigers.

In his stead will be junior passer Ryan Gregson, who served as Friloux’s backup last year as well.

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.”

Running back

Joshua Joseph, Calvin Smith and Chase Brooks form a trio of complimentary rushers who will share the load in 2022, and each brings different tools to the table.

Joseph led the team last year with 77 carries for 340 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also a very capable receiver who can line up as a wide receiver when the Tigers go empty – he caught 12 passes for 224 yards and four scores last season. Smith was the rare freshman to get the call to play a significant role last season when injuries depleted the Tigers’ backfield late in the year – he averaged nearly five yards a carry with 25 attempts for 117 yards, a preview of a player the team has very high expectations for. Brooks is getting his first extensive action, and he brings a serious dose of speed.

The running back position carries a great tradition at Hahnville, and Luquet believes this group has that kind of potential star power within them.

“Josh is a powerful back who’s really good at catching it out the backfield, and gives us the ability to exploit linebackers and safeties in coverage. Chase is probably the fastest of the three, very good on outside zone and in the screen game. If he gets to the edge, he’s gonna get it. CJ (Smith) rounds it all together. He will run you over, run through you or around you,” said Luquet. “I’ve never been a guy to give 25 carries to one back. Depending how the game goes, we’ll ride the hot hand.”

Wide receivers and tight ends

Dakota Williams missed almost the entirety of the 2021 season after tearing his ACL. The 6’2 wideout starred as a sophomore, and as a senior he appears ready to reclaim his form – his long touchdown catch in the team’s preseason scrimmage against St. James showed a player who looks the part once again.

“He makes it all go,” Luquet said. “He’s a Tulane commit, it really hurt us when we lost him. He’s such a threat downfield and teams are going to ID him, try to take him out of the game, and when they do that, it opens up space for everyone else.”

Williams is part of what is now an experienced receiving corps, with Titus White and Josh Smith playing extensively a year ago.

Smith was just scratching the surface on his potential. He finished with 118 yards through the air on 13 receptions, a big bodied player who can split time in line as a tight end and out wide at receiver. His role will expand exponentially this season. Ditto for White, who hauled in 17 catches for 250 yards and a score in 2021.

Dillan Allen will back up Smith at tight end. Romell Hardy and Kobe Louis round out the wide receiving corps, both of which bring deep speed to threaten secondaries.

“This group has a chance to be special,” Luquet said. “We have a lot of ways to put pressure on the defense.”

Offensive line

This is a group that’s been overhauled since last season, with four of the five starters on the 2021 line graduating over the summer.

Senior left guard Nathan Brevelle is the lone returning starter. Senior Marcus Garcia will man the left tackle spot. Brodie Donnaud, a sophomore, will spend time at both center and right guard. Junior Kenneth Lorio brings strong size to the group at 6’2, 260 lbs., and also athleticism – Lorio doubles as a center on the Tigers’ basketball squad, and he will primarily play center for the Tigers. At right tackle, Senior Jaden Rosales and junior Riley Hampton will compete for the duties.

Luquet has been impressed with how the young group has come together thus far, and credited offensive line coach David Baudry in his efforts to get the group up to speed quickly.

“Some of these guys are coming in off a year where they may have had only three JV games, given how our district was pounded by Ida,” Luquet said. “I think they do a very good job understanding what their strengths are and what they need to work on, and they’re doing a really good job learning this offense. I think our offensive line room is great in general. These guys care about one another, have love for each other and I think we’re a little more athletic at the position this year. That helps in the screen game, with pass protection – it all comes together with the work they put in as we move forward.”

Defensive line

At 6’4 and 240 lbs., a 4.5 time in the 40 is far from common. Defensive end Cincere Simmons shows off that athleticism in a variety of ways: see his performance against Benton in the 2021 postseason if one wants to quantify that, as he became a Tigers’ primary rusher in the game, carrying 12 times for 86 yards and a touchdown while playing two ways.

But Simmons’ primary role is what it has been for each of the past two seasons: as a cornerstone of the Hahnville defense. He is a two-time Louisiana Football Coaches All-State second team selection, known Louisiana-wide as a player who terrorizes opposing passers and rushers alike.

Fellow senior Temaj Mitchell was away from the team last season due to Hurricane Ida, but returns this season to man the opposite end of the line. Mitchell, like Simmons, brings a very explosive mix of size and speed to the mix. Jahki Preston will back them up.

“(Mitchell) is 6’4, rangy and maybe not quite as fast, but close to as fast as Cincere,” Luquet said. “You have two guys who can really run at the end.”

Anchoring against the run at defensive tackle will be a mix of players including Caiden Robertson, Torrey Holly, Cameron Darensbourg and Bryan Dumas.

Linebackers

This will be a group largely learning on the job, as all will be first year starters or players earning their first expansive playing time.

The Tigers’ inside linebacker positions will be manned by Jordan Boyle and junior Beau Parker, with Koen Donnaud and Khailan McLean in the mix. At outside linebacker, Jaylen Williams and Chase Morales get the call.

“These are all guys who played sparingly on Friday night in the past and this is their first shot at playing significant snaps,” said Luquet.

Defensive back

Luquet has very high praise for this group.

“This is one of the best secondaries I’ve been around in my career,” Luquet said, noting this squad’s speed and experience sets them apart.

Alavan Sam and Ahmad Simmons man the cornerback spots, with Ryan Simmons and William Brown backing them up. At safety, both starters from a year ago return with Sam Simoneaux and Dae’Ron Price in charge of the back end, with Jamiri Singleton backing them up.

“They bring physicality,” Luquet said. “And they simply add to the speed in which we play. We’re not the biggest across the board, but it’s hard to find a faster team than us on defense.”

Having that ability to cover ready and available in the secondary allows the Hahnville defense expanded freedom to bring more players into the box or send more blitzers at the passer.

“When you do those things, you really have to trust your guys on the back end,” Luquet said. “This group is an exciting one.”

Special teams

Returning All-District selection Dakota Morales will step back in as punter, but has been nursing an ankle injury in the preseason. Until he gets up to speed, Dakota Williams steps in as punter.

Dylan Patterson steps in as a first-year starter as place kicker, and Luquet said the soccer player has proven a welcome addition.

“He gives us a chance to do a lot of things … kick deep right, deep middle, deep left, sky kick right or left, chip, onside kick … he’s very talented in that aspect of the game,” Luquet said.

Titus White and Williams will share kickoff and punt returning duties.

 

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