Tigers host Braves team in midst of breakthrough

Troy Kendrick finds yards after the catch for Hahnville.

2021 has been a season of rebirth for H.L. Bourgeois.  

The Braves (3-1, 3-1) have completely turned around their fortunes under first-year head coach Sterling Washington, who took over the program unexpectedly after his predecessor Tawaskie Anderson stepped down from his post as head coach in mid-September after two seasons leading the team. Anderson resigned after losing his home to Ida and moving to Texas thereafter.   

On Friday night, the Braves travel to Hahnville, where a win over the Tigers would likely cement a playoff berth, one that seemed very unlikely prior to the season. 

Bourgeois began the Washington era with a 19-0 win over Terrebonne. Destrehan turned the Braves back in a 45-0 Wildcats victory, but Bourgeois was undeterred, moving on quickly from that setback to win two straight over East St. John, 33-22, and Thibodaux, 17-7.  

The team’s three wins already are its highest total since a four-win mark in 2016 – it won just six games total from 2017-2020. 2016 was also the last time Bourgeois has been to the state playoffs, and the Braves hope 2021 will pay similar dividends.  

Hahnville should prove a challenge there – the Tigers bested Bourgeois 43-19 last season, though this Braves team seems far improved.  

One thing in watching film, they capitalize on mistakes,” said Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet. “I want to say in the three games they’ve won, they won the turnover battle, and took the turnovers they forced and turned them into points …  (Washington) has been around a long time. They just play hard. He and his staff are putting them in spots to be successful, and they’re playing with lot of confidence right now.” 

It’s a key game in the race for playoff positioning. Bourgeois sits in the top 16 of Class 5A power points, which – if that holds – would put the Braves in line to host a postseason game. For Hahnville, last week’s win over De La Salle vaulted HHS from 36 to 22 overall, and Luquet believes if his team can string together wins in its next three games, it can move well into the top 16 with a final record of 5-2.  

“But first thing’s first,” Luquet said. “You can’t look ahead, and H.L. Bourgeois is who we have to beat right now.” 

Offensively, Bourgeois running back Javon Pharagood has been putting together a strong season. He scored twice in the win over East St. John and added another touchdown last week against Thibodaux. He’s joined in the backfield by quarterback Gavin Vordick, who connected with Tyrese Starks for a touchdown last week. The passer’s play has impressed Luquet. 

“Very impressed, actually,” Luquet said. “I think that kid really commands the offense. You can’t really take him down with the first guy and he’s got a pretty live arm. I think he really gives them the ability to do some different things and get into and out of some different sets.” 

Those sets could include a spread look one down or an old school, three running back look on another.  

“They try to get their guys on the perimeter, outflank you and get them to the outside,” Luquet said. “Then they’ve got some 4.5, 4.6 guys who try to run right by you, and (Vordick) puts it up and gives them a chance to make a play.” 

Defensively, Da’wuan Diggs is one of the Braves’ leaders. He had a big day in the effort to hold Thibodaux to just seven points – he contributed a touchdown of his own to Bourgeois’ total as well, recovering a fumble and returning it for a touchdown. It was one of two fumble recoveries he had in the game.  

Another is edge rusher Gabe Cardenas, who Luquet said his Tigers must be diligent to account for.  

“They bring a lot of pressure,” Luquet said. “(Cardenas) can shed blocks, get up field and dip under blocks. He can create problems. They mix in some Bear fronts, some 3-3’s … they bring pressure and do a good job of forcing mistakes.” 

Limiting or eliminating those mistakes is critical, said Luquet, as is getting off to a fast start. 

“They have a lot to play for. This is their Super Bowl, per se, because beating us all but gets them to a lot of those goals. We need to be sure we match their intensity,” Luquet said. “The biggest thing for us is we need to get out ahead early, because if you let them hang around, with the confidence they’re playing with, you’re going to really be in for a ballgame in the fourth. We need to try and put things away early.” 

Hahnville, meanwhile, is playing its best football of the young season after earning a second straight win to even its record at 2-2 (1-2 in District 7-5A). It edged De La Salle in a dramatic 14-13 game that saw the game come down to a final DLS kick that sailed wide left.  

The Tigers trailed 7-0 at halftime but engineered two touchdown drives in the second half to take a 14-7 lead before holding on. The scores came on a Donovan Friloux 29-yard pass to Troy Kendrick and a 1-yard run by K’Jon Smith.  

Smith and Joshua Joseph will have to carry a larger role now in the backfield after starting running back Cole Villasenor went down with a torn ACL on Friday night.  

Luquet voiced his belief in Smith and Joseph, who each effectively have two full games of carrying the load under their belts this season. But he said the loss of Villasenor, a senior who was in his first season as a starter, is not just a tough one on the field – it carries an emotional blow. 

“His career as a Tiger is over and it’s a hard thing,” Luquet said. “He is one of those guys who really represents the heart and soul of our team. His teammates love him and he loves this team … a true Hahnville Tiger. He grew up in Des Allemands waiting for this opportunity … that it ends like this for a kid like him is a really hard thing to take.”

 

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