The Hahnville Tigers were eager to return to the football field after the cancellation of the season’s first three weeks, but it wasn’t the outcome they’d envisioned.
A 42-7 loss to archrival Destrehan was the result of a game that went off the rails for Hahnville after a first quarter that saw the Tigers emerge with a 7-0 lead. But Destrehan’s relentless pass rush kept first-time starting quarterback Donovan Friloux from ever getting into a groove. The Wildcats’ offensive line controlled the action on the other side of the ball, and after DHS took its first lead, turnovers buried the Tigers.
“You have to protect the football, and you have to do the things you need to do up front on both sides of the ball,” said Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet after the game, the first for both St. Charles Parish teams following Hurricane Ida. “We didn’t do that, and when that happens, you get your tails whipped by a good team.”
There’s no time to step back and regroup, however – the Tigers must repair on the fly, as next on the slate is a Friday night date in Reserve with another River rival, East St. John, another team pegged before the season as a District 7-5A title contender.
These games carry even more importance than usual, given the early cancellations – each remaining regular season game will be one of seven, opposed to the expected 10.
“We knew this four-game stretch would be our toughest part of the schedule (before the storm),” said Luquet. “You’d like to have had some games under your belt before this, but it’s the way it goes. And this is the same kind of East St. John team as always: big, athletic playmakers all over the field.”
Under head coach Brandon Brown, East St. John has reestablished itself among the state’s most difficult matchups – and among its local rivals. After falling behind in the 7-5A pecking order for several seasons, ESJ has gone 16-5 over the past two seasons, and over the past three seasons has scored two wins over Hahnville – including a 38-16 win last season – and one over Destrehan.
A big reason for that is the development of a defensive unit that, when at its best, is among the state’s stingiest.
“They’re fast, man,” Luquet said. “So fast. They do a great job of keeping you in front and rallying to the football. They make you sustain drives down the field.”
At 6’3, 287 lbs., Durell Daigre is an imposing figure up front for East St. John, and not just because of his size and strength – Luquet notes the athletic Daigre moves like a much smaller player, splits double teams and uses his hands well.
On the offensive side of the ball, Hahnville must find an answer for wide receiver Kylon Harris, who burned the Tigers for three touchdowns in last year’s game.
“He’s very explosive,” Luquet said. “He’s not big in stature but he plays big. We’ll have to line up correctly and really bracket him.”
Luquet said the team will welcome back two starters to the secondary who were still evacuated last week, which should considerably help in the effort to contain Harris and his fellow playmakers.
“I believe in our secondary,” Luquet said. “I know it didn’t show against Destrehan, but I’m a firm believer that this defense is much improved from last year – more physical, faster … we need to do a better job of playing complementary football if we’re to get out of Reserve with a win Friday. Because that’s imperative. You can’t start 0-2. Thibodaux and De La Salle come next, so it gets no easier.”
Like Hahnville, ESJ operates with a first-year starter at quarterback, George Smith. Joining Smith in the backfield is Cortez Fisher, a talented running back who also made his mark last season in the Tigers/Wildcats’ clash.
ESJ fell 16-14 in a defensive battle last week with Thibodaux. Another school ravaged by Ida, ESJ could not practice in pads – those arrived on game day – and Luquet expects ESJ to be all the more prepared and determined this week.