It was a tale of two halves at Tiger Stadium Friday night.
16th seeded Hahnville stormed out to a 14-0 lead in its opening round playoff battle with visiting No. 17 seed Ouachita Parish, but the Lions fought back – and ultimately a second half in which OPHS outscored Hahnville 22-0 spelled the difference in a 35-21 road victory, bringing Hahnville’s season to an end.
Ouachita Parish advances to face No. 1 seed Ruston in round two.
Ouachita entered the game with both quarterback Zach Jackson and running back Carldell Sirmons coming off a Week 10 absence with injury. Both made their presence known throughout the night, however, as did Week 10 breakout star Chaunkiveon Lewis, who rushed for more than 340 yards last week filling in for Sirmons.
“It was a case where we made every throw and made every read we needed to in the first half, and we missed a lot of throws and a lot of reads in the second,” said Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet. “There wasn’t a lot they were doing defensively that could stop us in the first half. They made some adjustments, as a good football team does, and I felt we made some too, but the biggest thing is in the first half, we played well offensively and kept them off the field. In the second half, we missed on too many chances.”
It was Jackson and Sirmons who got Ouachita on the board first, their long touchdown connection cutting Hahnville’s lead to 14-7 late in the first quarter.
But it was Lewis who took over the game in the second half, scoring three times, including a 54-yard touchdown that put Ouachita (6-5) ahead for the first time, and for good.
Slow starts have plagued Hahnville (6-5) in a handful of games this season, but Friday night did not represent another example – the Tigers got off to as hot a start as they’ve had in a game this season, opening the game with a long passing play as Ryan Gregson connected with Titus White for a 60-yard gain down the middle of the field. Gregson finished the drive off with a touchdown run of 13 yards to make it 7-0.
That deep shot to White was the first of many for a Hahnville offense that sought to attack an Ouachita secondary tasked with covering the Tiger receivers one-on-one as the Lions loaded the box against the run.
The Tigers swarmed to the ball on a second down play for Ouachita and made a key tackle for loss that short-circuited OPHS’ next drive and forced a punt.
Hahnville scored again on the first of several big plays on the night by Dakota Williams. The Louisiana Tech commit made a tremendous adjustment on a deep bomb by Ryan Gregson that resulted in a 45-yard touchdown, putting Hahnville ahead 14-0.
“He’s our best player on the offensive side,” Luquet said of Williams, who erupted statistically in the second half of the season. “Ryan, over the last four or five games, started to get it going down the field and we took some shots – kudos to Dakota, who’s going to have a phenomenal career at Louisiana Tech, he gave ‘em trouble all night.”
After Sirmons’ catch to score and answer, Calvin Smith punched through the line for a big gain out of the Beast formation and got 30 yards to put HHS in scoring position. A near touchdown pass to Romell Hardy was caught but ruled out of bounds on third down, and a 33-yard field goal by Dylan Patterson was tipped at the line and came up short.
Jackson dialed up another big play to pull his team within one, hitting fullback Jamarion Treadway down the seam for a 45-yard touchdown to make it 14-13. Hahnville blocked the point after to maintain a one-point lead.
Just as Hahnville turned to the air more to combat the loaded box Ouachita’s defense presented, the option-based Lions offense was attacking downfield early.
“We knew (Sirmons and Jackson) were banged up. Did we expect them to go to that as early as they did? No … they got us for two big plays. (Sirmons) in the slot, he had a groin injury but vertically, he was fine,” Luquet said.
HHS was in business again, this time on a 30-yard completion down the sideline – no adjustment needed this time as Williams hauled in a perfect pass from Gregson to set the Tigers up near the redzone. A few plays later it was Gregson connecting with Williams again for a 30-yard touchdown pass, making it 21-13, a score that held until halftime.
Hahnville drove down into the Ouachita redzone again to begin the third quarter, but stalled out on fourth and two after Ouachita’s Damontae Thomas broke up an attempt to Williams.
Then Lewis got rolling. He made two strong runs to push OPHS into Hahnville territory. Jackson picked up a fourth-and-2 with his legs, then Lewis scored on the next play to make it 21-19. Treadway scored on the two-point conversion try on a blast up the middle.
The Tigers couldn’t get their footing on the next drive, and Lewis made them pay on the next drive with a 54-yard touchdown run that pushed his team ahead 28-21 with eight seconds left in the third quarter.
Hahnville needed a response, but ran into a tough defensive stand by Ouachita – and some unfortunate circumstance. Gregson was tackled and shaken up on a second down, necessitating he miss a third-and-long play. White came on in relief and was hit by several defenders at the line on a rush attempt – it resulted in a leg injury and White was forced to miss the rest of the game.
Hahnville punted and Sirmons returned it to the Hahnville 27, threatening to all but put the game away. The Tigers defense got a much-needed stop and forced a turnover on downs. But Ouachita’s pass rush got to Gregson and likewise forced a Hahnville punt – and this time, Lewis put his team up two touchdowns after a big run into the HHS redzone and an 11-yard touchdown run.
HHS drove down to the Ouachita redzone, with time ticking away on their season. But with just under four minutes left, Gregson’s 4th down pass for Hardy in the endzone fell incomplete, and the Tigers’ season was all but over.
Though a painful loss for Hahnville, the young Tigers battled through the loss of its starting quarterback and several tough setbacks throughout the season to enter the playoffs playing its best football.
“We have resilient young men who play football here,” said Luquet. “We’ve lost people over the last couple years and we’ve had guys stepping up. No matter who we lose, I know I have guys who practice hard every day, who do what they need to do in the classroom – it’s a phenomenal group. I know they’re hurting, but they’ve done what they needed to do this year to get us going in the right direction.”
Gregson, a junior who found himself thrust into the lineup as starter after Donovan Friloux’s season-ending injury in the preseason jamboree, started to find himself in the second half of the season. Through his first six games, Gregson had thrown one touchdown pass. Over the past five, he’s thrown 12 and rushed for another.
“He has done a fantastic job this year – the offseason is going to be huge for him and for our other young guys,” Luquet said. “This is a team that grew really well over the course of the season, and the future is bright … it didn’t go the way we hoped tonight in the second half, but our guys fought all night.”