Hahnville running back Darryle Evans said the Tigers’ Class 5A first round playoff matchup against Chalmette came down to one thing, which was echoed by head coach Nick Saltaformaggio moments later: reclaiming its identity.
Mission accomplished, and Hahnville is off to round two after soundly defeating Chalmette 28-6 at Tiger Stadium Friday night.
Evans scored three times on the ground, while Drew Naquin connected with Dakota Williams – who’s emerged with some big plays the past few weeks – for a score through the air.
“It feels good. We’ve got our swagger back,” said Evans, who rushed for 159 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. “We’ve gotta keep going … can’t let up now. We’ve come too far. We’re trying to win it all.”
Hahnville’s 8-0 start to the season was prelude to a sour two weeks leading into the playoffs, with losses to Jesuit and Destrehan rounding out regular season play. Saltaformaggio said to get right, it had to come down to the Tigers getting back to their winning formula: playing strong defense and relying on a powerful running game keyed by Evans and a big, strong offensive line. He backed up those words. The Tigers rushed for 238 yards on 36 attempts, compared to 13 pass attempts.
“We lost our identity over the last few games. We were trying to throw it a little more … what we do is get the ball to Darryle Evans and lean on people up front with our big offensive line,” said Saltaformaggio. “That’s what we did for eight weeks, and we felt like we needed to get away from it a little bit with the playoffs coming up and not knowing how some teams might match up with you.”
The run heavy approach helped Naquin stay comfortable in the pocket. He was efficient, completing 9-of-12 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Robert Jackson got Hahnville (9-2) off to a great start when he intercepted a Chalmette pass on the first drive of the game, eventually leading to a 6-yard run by Evans to make it 7-0.
Hahnville made it a two-score lead on Naquin’s pass to Williams, who finished as Hahnville’s leading receiver with three catches for 45 yards. Then Channing Canada made his own big defensive play, bringing in another interception that once again led to Evans crossing the goalline. Hahnville led 21-0 at halftime. Evans added one more touchdown in the third quarter of play. Chalmette (8-3) got on the board via a late touchdown drive with just over two minutes left.
Saltaformaggio spoke during the week about the need to get Trey Labranch and the team’s starting wide receivers more touches in the running game as well, in addition to getting Evans going early. Labranch added 51 yards on 11 carries and wideout Corey Lorio ran six times for 32 yards.
For Saltaformaggio, it was an emotional night. The veteran coach was head coach at Chalmette in the early part of the 2000s, and said he’s forever grateful to Chalmette principal Wayne Warner for giving him the chance he did.
“I got a little choked up when I saw Mr. Warner,” Saltaformaggio said. “I love him like I love my dad. It was rough … I’m glad it’s over with because I don’t want to play them. When nobody else gave me a chance, that school did. I’m where I’m at because of those guys, and I’m very happy to be where I am because of those guys.”
It was a gutty effort for the Tigers. Saltaformaggio noted a flu bug that resulted in 168 absences at Hahnville on Friday, including four starters who missed Friday night’s game.
“It sounds like an excuse, but it’s the reality,” Saltaformaggio said. “We haven’t recovered yet.”
A quick recovery from here would be ideal, particularly with the 12th seeded Tigers’ next opponent on the slate: Zachary, which downed Live Oak 39-7 in round one and will host Hahnville in round two.
You might call Zachary a nemesis.
“Those guys put us out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals, once in the state championship game and last year in round two,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’ve gotta get through them sooner or later if we want to get to where we want to be.”