Following four first half turnovers and a 13-point deficit, Hahnville rallied to lead visiting Newman at halftime Friday night, 14-13.
But from there everything that could go wrong for Hahnville, seemed to.
Arch Manning and the Newman offense got hot and posted a trio of second half scores, leaving a Hahnville team that played much of the second half without either of the two quarterbacks topping its depth chart outgunned in a 35-14 opening night loss at Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers entered the game missing quarterback Donovan Friloux, who will miss the entirety of the season with a torn ACL suffered in last week’s jamboree loss. Ryan Gregson, his backup, was knocked out of the game in the second half after taking a hit on a screen play.
That left wide receiver Titus White and running backs Joshua Joseph and Calvin Smith to share duties at quarterback the rest of the way on a night the Tigers had to play catch up against a Newman defense that played outstanding ball all night long.
The Greenies, who have been knocking at the door of the Division III championship over the past two seasons with two semifinalist finishes, were sharp and Manning, a Texas commitment and No. 1 overall prep prospect, played as advertised in the second half after a relatively slow start. He finished the night with three touchdown passes.
Gregson and the Hahnville offense struggled after just seven days to adjust after Friloux’s loss. Newman’s first touchdown came on a Will Randle – another Texas commitment – interception return for a touchdown. The Greenies’ ended each of Hahnville’s next two possessions by forcing turnovers, the second of those on a Randle forced fumble and recovery that set up a Manning touchdown pass to Will Zurik.
Hahnville fought back, first with a gutty 17 play, 80 yard drive that ended with a Joseph 1-yard plunge into the endzone.
The Tigers’ go-ahead touchdown, conversely, was a much quicker strike, Gregson connecting with tight end Josh Smith for an 83-yard touchdown to give HHS a halftime lead.
After a defensive stop, it seemed Hahnville had turned the momentum in its favor and marched deep into Newman territory just before halftime. But a fumble ended that threat and Hahnville was forced to settle for a one-point halftime lead.
“You can’t turn the ball over … four in the first half,” Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet said. “We have a chance to punch it in late in the first half, go up 21-13 at half, and we fumble it. Things that can’t happen. Good football teams can’t do that. And you can’t beat good football teams like Newman when you’re doing that.”
Newman took control for good in the second half. The Greenies established the run to keep the Tiger pass rushers at bay, with Manning mostly handing off save for one deep pass to Randle – who held onto the ball through hard contact – that set Newman up in scoring position. Zurik’s 9-yard score capped the drive and a two-point conversion made it 21-14.
Manning later connected with Kai Donaldson and Peter Loup for touchdowns to round out the Newman scoring, as Hahnville struggled to extend drives.
While the opening loss was tough enough, Hahnville doesn’t have much time to dwell on it. Luquet noted several areas beyond turnovers the team would need to find solutions for. Several players were cramping early in the third quarter – “We’ve got to take better care of our bodies,” Luquet said – and find a solution to replace the production lost by Friloux, who started for Hahnville all of last season in his junior year.
“He got all the reps in summer, spring, fall, and then seven days before your first game, you’re without him. It’s tough,” Luquet said. “At the end, Titus came in and did a great job. He’s a ballplayer, man, got us out of some situations there and showed some things. Moving forward, he’s gonna play a little bit more.
“Gregson’s got to be able to make some of the throws he didn’t make tonight. We know he can, he’s done it in the past … he’s got to be able to make the checkdowns and the small throws. And hat’s off to Newman, they did a great job of making second half adjustments.”
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