Hours into the aftermath of the bombshell dropped on Thursday by the LHSAA that Hahnville would be without its head coach for the first four games of the football season and without its star quarterback for the season’s entirety, there was still a game to play.
The Tigers were edged out by visiting Jesuit 10-7 in a defensive struggle at Tiger Stadium Thursday night for a preseason jamboree scrimmage. But the buzz around the stadium surrounded the punishment levied against the school by the athletic association as result of its investigation into the transfer of senior quarterback Andrew Robison from Vandebilt Catholic.
Robison, a highly-regarded player and Division I prospect, stands to miss his senior season — which would represent the remainder of his prep athletic career — and Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio would miss the opening month of the regular season, including a showdown with archrival Destrehan. The St. Charles Parish Public School district has appealed the ruling.
When the Tigers took the field Thursday night, they were led out by Robison and met with a loud ovation from a stadium packed full of Hahnville fans. While Saltaformaggio said he couldn’t comment in detail about the ruling, his emotions got the best of him when reflecting on the night.
“It was great bringing ‘em out here,” Saltaformaggio said with tears in his eyes. “This is Hahnville. We’re in an August jamboree in front of a packed stadium with a great student body. I’ll miss it the next four weeks, but we’ll be back and we’ll be fine because this is Hahnville … I’m getting a little emotional because I’m thinking about what I’ll be missing on those Friday nights. The students, our band, those fans. There’s not a lot of places like this. It’s special.”
Saltaformaggio said the tight knit community at the school has made a trying time easier to cope with.
“I have a great support system here,” he said. “As long as Hahnville has that support system, and Coach Salt has that support system, I don’t care what anyone does to us. I love our kids and will continue to love our kids.”
While the ruling does affect him personally, he feels more for Robison, who suddenly may never throw another pass in high school.
“It’ll always be about the player,” Saltaformaggio said.
The team held a 7-3 lead after Jha’Quan Jackson took a kickoff and raced 90 yards for a touchdown late in the first half.
Jesuit answered midway through the second half on a one-yard rushing touchdown to take a 10-7 lead which its defense preserved for the victory.
With Robison out, the team split quarterback reps between sophomore Andrew Naquin, who played the entire first half, and senior Jha’Quan Jackson, last year’s starting quarterback who had moved to wide receiver in the spring.
Like the Tigers’ preseason scrimmage a week ago, the jamboree showcased a dominant Hahnville defense and an offense still finding its way. The Tigers’ pass rush, led by Adonis Friloux, sacked Jesuit five times Thursday night.
“Across the board on our defense front, those guys are really good football players,” Saltaformaggio said. “I’ve been a defense guy all my life and I know when you can play defense the way we play defense, you can be real successful.”
Offensively, he said the team’s youth in some key positions must be served through some growing pains, but he also expressed confidence that those players will make big strides.
“We’re starting sophomores at offensive tackle, guard and quarterback … if you’ve followed our middle school program, these guys have been very, very good as young players,” Saltaformaggio said. “We know what those players will be. We’re gonna be fine. Are we fine right now? No, but no one won or lost the state championship tonight.”