Even while coaching elsewhere, Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio was well aware of the classic games that seemed to occur annually between Hahnville and East St. John.
In recent years, the ESJ program had seen a down period from its traditional standing as a 5A factor. But last year under head coach Brandon Brown, the program made a sharp turn upward, and this season the Wildcats appear to be taking another step after a 3-1 start. Couple the return of Larry Dauterive as offensive coordinator—he was the team’s head coach for several years in those memorable Hahnville/ESJ battles—and it’s even easier to recall what the Wildcats were in the past, and what Saltaformaggio believes they are again.
“East St. John represents the quality of our district … with Coach Brown over there and the job he’s done, and coach Dauterive with him, East St. John is back where East St. John always has been in the hierarchy of our district. I remember when Ryan Perrilloux was there with Coach Dauterive. For an old guy like me, I remember when Coach Greco was there with Timmy Byrd at quarterback on the way to a state championship,” Saltaformaggio said.
“For me, it means the chance for Hahnville to play East St. John in the way those games have always been played, those multiple overtime games.”
Indeed, a whopping six overtimes were needed to decide things between the teams in one of those battles in the late 2000s.
Like last week, Hahnville is attempting to turn back a team that bested the Tigers last season.
Quarterback Sean Shelby is back for the Wildcats. Saltaformaggio said it’s clear the senior is a student of the game.
“He rarely makes an incorrect read,” Saltaformaggio said. “You take the athletic side out of it … he’s a big kid, a big time arm, can make plays with his feet. But he’s been well-coached and it’s obvious he studies the game. When guys are open he gets ‘em the ball. And when guys aren’t open, he still gets ‘em the ball. He has an inate ability to throw those dimes.”
Senior Dontae Fleming is a “special wide receiver,” Saltaformaggio said. Running back Calvin Gardner is a tough player to tackle out of the backfield.
Defensively, East St. John is big and physical up front. Defensive lineman Welland Williams and linebacker Trevion Hampton can stop ballcarriers in their tracks, both among the Wildcats’ leaders on that side of the ball.