Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio is stunned that his team is 2-3 heading into the sixth week of the 2014 football season.
As the head coach of East Jefferson High School’s 15-0 4A state championship team last year, Saltaformaggio sees Hahnville in a place he is not very familiar with and one he does not care for.
“I would have lost the farm if somebody told me we were going to be 2-3. I would have bet everything. We are just going to dig ourselves out of this hole,” he said.
The Tigers fell below .500 with a 24-6 loss to rival Destrehan last week. Saltaformaggio said he was happy with his team’s performance early on, especially on defense.
“It was 3-0 at halftime and 10-0 at the end of the third quarter,” Saltaformaggio said.
However, as the game wore on the Wildcats tore into the Tigers and wide receiver Kirk Merritt put up two long runs, of 57 yards and 92 yards, that both went for touchdowns. Trailing 24-0 with just over two minutes to go, Hahnville quarterback Austin Perrin tossed a 55-yard touchdown to wide receiver Brandon Singleton to bring the score to 24-6, which is where the game ended.
The Tigers had a chance to put more points on the board, but, having been plagued with a bad kicking game all year, they missed a 27-yard field goal.
Saltaformaggio said such missteps have hurt the Tigers all season.
“We always have a breakdown, every single play,” he said.In addition to making mistakes, poor play on offense in the past few games has resulted in the defense taking on more of a burden.
“Counting the snaps, we are averaging somewhere between 15 to 30 snaps more on defense than our offense is. Our defense is playing more like an extra quarter than our offense,” he said.
Saltaformaggio said on offense the Tigers need to see vast improvement if they stand to make the playoffs.
“I’ve got to figure out why one side of the ball plays so hard and the other side seems like they don’t care if they are on or off the field. We do not play with a whole lot of effort offensively at all,” he said.
Much of the downturn on the offensive side of the ball has come after a broken collarbone forced Mike Neal out of the starting lineup in week three – even though replacement sophomore quarterback Perrin has played well. Perrin connected on 13-of-19 passes for 180 yards against Destrehan.
“It is the craziest thing because Perrin is not playing badly. He is playing winnable football. The problem we are having is we do not have a go-to play,” Saltaformaggio said.
Through the first three games the Tigers offense scored a combined 111 points, but in the last two weeks they were only able to put up 22 points.
“Right now there is no guarantee we are going to make the playoffs,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’ve scored three touchdowns in the last two games and one of those was the result of the defense giving us the ball on the 12-yard line.”
Still, the three teams that have beaten Hahnville are all undefeated.
“The three teams that beat us are 15-0. I still struggle a little with the Thibodaux game because it wasn’t our best effort. We didn’t play with as much effort,” he said. “The other two – Rummel and DHS – we played with a lot of effort. We just played two teams that on that night were better than we were.”
Heading into this week’s game against Terrebonne, Saltaformaggio is looking to reverse the trend.
However, he said Terrebonne (2-3), who historically does not have a winning program, should be feeling good coming into the game with the same record as Hahnville.
“That gives us a problem,” he said “They have some big, good kids. They are going to come in here with the mindset that HHS is struggling. They haven’t had a whole lot of success against Hahnville and this is their opportunity.”
Saltaformaggio said Terrebonne runs a five-man front on defense that Hahnville has struggled running the ball against this year, most notably last week against Destrehan.Saltaformaggio said Terrebonne’s offense is also similar to the one they faced last week.
“I guess a lot of people have been copying Destrehan. A lot of gun run, power flow, speed sweep,” he said.
Overall, Saltaformaggio said it is up to his team to get better and that if they stop taking themselves out of games they should come out alright.
“We have to be more consistent on both sides of the football and take care of Hahnville,” he said. “I really believe that when the picture is being finished painted we are going to be a really good team. We need to be urgent about where we are right now. Win today and then win tomorrow.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday at Hahnville.