Hahnville shows growth throughout spring, Smith explosive in spring game

Fabian Celestine of Hahnville

For Greg Boyne, accepting the Hahnville head coaching job represents a homecoming – even if many don’t know it. 

Boyne is a Hahnville graduate, but his longtime tenure at Destrehan as an assistant football coach and offensive coordinator has associated him more with the garnet and gray rather than the purple and gold. 

Boyne’s been conducting his first spring at the helm of the Hahnville program. As to whether it feels strange, he says not yet. 

“Even being from Hahnville, I was at Destrehan so long and that’s what most people think of. It’s a little funny. I’ve gotten the ‘man, you’re a traitor’ – and most of the time, they’re kidding,” Boyne quipped. “But I think for me, it’ll mostly be a big deal in Week 9 (when the two teams face off). Otherwise, it hasn’t really crossed my mind much.”

He said this group of Tigers has already proven fun to work with. 

“They’re hard-working kids,” Boyne said. “I think the fact they were 3-6 last year, it has this group hungry. They’ve taken everything we’ve told them and done it.”

2023 quarterback Ryan Gregson has moved on, with two talented young players vying for the opportunity to step into his starting role. Landen Teague and Bennett Naquin, who will be a sophomore and a junior respectively, have garnered the starting reps this spring. 

“It’s two amazing, smart, talented kids,” Boyne said. “They’re both baseball kids. We’re working with them, talking them through how to watch film and handle the huddle. We don’t know who our starter will be yet. We may not know until the end of the summer. There’s a good chance both will play.”

There’s also a good chance Hahnville will feature the run extensively, as this is a very strong group of running backs led by Calvin “CJ” Smith, an explosive runner who can impact the game as a rusher and receiver alike. Fabian Celestine, Patrick Jackson and Rydell Nathan are others who have stood out in the backfield. Boyne called the position the strength of the offense.

“We’ve got a great collection of backs at all grade levels,” Boyne said. 

The offensive line is senior-laden as well, and Boyne said the offensive players as a full unit have rapidly picked up the offense as he’s installed it. 

“Obviously, they’ll be mistakes along the way,” Boyne said. “But they keep soaking it up and so we install more and more.”

Defensively, defensive lineman Frederic Downing Jr. Has had a strong spring, as has safety Jacob Jeffrey and linebacker Carter Burns.

Koa Romero, meanwhile, brings a very physical presence to the linebacking corps, Boyne said. And returning cornerback Ryan Simmons has again established himself as a playmaker in the secondary under defensive coordinator Malter Scobel, who worked with Boyne at Destrehan and made the move to Hahnville after serving as head coach at Slidell for the past three seasons. 

HAHNVILLE BATTLES BACK IN SPRING GAME – Hahnville’s first live action against another team in the Greg Boyne era came in the form of a promising spring game.

The Tigers hosted Jesuit for the annual scrimmage and the two teams fought to a stalemate, with each first team scoring three touchdowns over four quarters of exhibition action. Calvin Smith proved to be the star of the show after a tremendous junior season – the senior to be scored all three HHS touchdowns, including one on a long reception.

Last week, HHS coach Greg Boyne noted a primary focus of the spring was for the team to embrace physicality, and that the spring matchup with Jesuit would be an ideal test to that goal. 

While Boyne said that’s an area the team still has improvement to make in, he was very pleased with the effort at Tiger Stadium.

“We wanted to see if we could match someone else’s physicality, and Jesuit is traditionally a very physical team – in the Catholic League, you have to be,” Boyne said. “I was very pleased with that aspect. We came out with energy early. We made a few mistakes, but it’s a spring game and you’re going to have some of that. We still have a lot to work on … we have the summer now to watch film, go over our mistakes and correct things for the season.”

Jesuit led 7-0 after punching in a short touchdown run, but then Calvin Smith answered with a haymaker. Hahnville ran a play-action roll out as Landen Teague passed to Smith in the flat – and the latter was off to the races, finding room and separating from the defense for a 90-yard touchdown reception.

“He’s a phenomenal back and he’s had a great spring,” said Boyne. “He’s multidimensional and you saw that right there.”

The Blue Jays dialed up two more passing touchdowns – one in the redzone, one from long distance – to go ahead 21-7 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. 

Hahnville marched back down the field, again on the back of Smith, whose 35-yard gain set the Tigers up in the red zone. Hahnville got to the 2 when Smith was hit in the backfield – spun out of the tackle and scored off left tackle to make it 21-14. 

The Tigers got a big play before halftime on a Bennett Naquin pass to Fabian Celestine, into Jesuit territory, but Jesuit held from there. 

Defenses stood tall in the second half, as both teams traded stops back-and-forth. And the key sequence of the second half was in fact ignited by the Tigers defense when Tylen Kalili surged into the backfield on a 4th and 1 call to stop Jesuit in the backfield, leading to a turnover on downs at the Jesuit 20. A play later, Smith blasted through a big hole opened by the HHS offensive line and scored untouched to tie the scrimmage up at 21. 

“It’s what I like about going to this format as opposed to the scripted plays … you get into those scenarios and have a chance to see how you respond. Tylen made an unbelievable play and Coach (Malter Scobel, HHS defensive coordinator) made a good call there. (Kalili) shot into the B-gap and blew up the play.”

Boyne was equally pleased with the ensuing offensive result, which yielded Smith’s third score of the day. 

“Late in the season, Calvin went out for track and was throwing shot put and discus – by the end of the year he was the lead leg on the 4×1 relay,” Boyne said. “That’s rare for his size. He’s a weapon. Our young backs ran really well too, and if you’ve got three, four backs all running well, that means your offensive line’s playing well.”

Naquin, who will be a junior this fall, and Teague, who will be a sophomore, each had positive moments during the scrimmage as well as they continue to compete for the starting job at quarterback. They split first team reps during the spring game. 

“I thought they were about dead even going in and I’d say they’re still dead even,” said Boyne. “They’re extremely smart kids. Both made some mistakes, to be expected as ninth and 10th graders … they’ll continue to get equal reps going into the summer.”

 

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