Casting an eye toward his Hahnville Tigers’ 2018 schedule, coach Nick Saltaformaggio says while any coach would love to go 10-0, he’ll feel just fine if his team can once again surge in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.
In each of Saltaformaggio’s four seasons at the helm of the Hahnville program, the Tigers have gone unbeaten after week five and rode a sizeable win streak into the postseason. Last season, his team found its greatest success — and longest streak — over that timeframe, beating Destrehan in Week four to ignite what became an 11-game win streak and trip to the Superdome for the Class 5A championship game.
“Unfortunately, we really haven’t started fast since I’ve been head coach at Hahnville, but the flip side of that is we’ve always finished really strong,” Saltaformaggio said, attributing those finishes in part to his team playing quality foes to prepare itself for the stretch run. “So if that’s the hand I’m dealt, I’ll take it.”
This year represents the second leg of the “home and home” schedules put together by each of the state’s coaches in 2017, meaning the matchups each respective week remain the same from last season, but the venue shifts.
For Hahnville, that means opening its regular season on the road against West Jefferson at Hoss Memtsas Stadium for the first of three pre-district games. Coached by former South Plaquemines leader — and blitz enthusiast — Cyril Crutchfield and led on the field by Mississippi State-committed defensive back Greg Brooks, the Buccaneers present a quality challenge to start the Tigers’ season. West Jefferson went 5-5 last season and Saltaformaggio believes they’ll be better this season.
“(Brooks) is tremendously gifted and Cyril, I know he’ll have them improved from last season,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’ll open over there on the road and it’ll be a good test.”
The Tigers’ home opener presents a visit from something of a nemesis for the team — John Ehret, which eliminated Hahnville from the postseason two years ago and bested the Tigers in a wild game last season. Ehret is coached by Marcus Scott, who was Destrehan’s defensive coordinator last season.
“We haven’t beat them since I’ve been here … I know Marcus Scott very well not just from Destrehan, but also from competing with him when he was head coach of West Jefferson,” said Saltaformaggio, who led East Jefferson to a state crown prior to arriving at Hahnville. “Ehret’s always very talented with three or four guys in their program who are truly tremendous prospects. It will be a war.”
A rematch with Brother Martin awaits next. The Crusaders beat Hahnville at Tiger Stadium last season and will host this matchup at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“Brother Martin has lost some talented guys, but that’s a program that always seems to polish up the next guy and be ready to go,” Saltaformaggio said. “That’ll be a new venue for our kids, over at City Park in Tad Gormley. Hahnville hasn’t played at Gormley that often, and we’ll be facing a really well-coached team.”
District play begins in Week 4, and no time will be wasted: Hahnville and Destrehan once again kick start District 7-5A play, the two matching up at Hahnville.
The Tigers ended a Destrehan win streak in the rivalry last season, notching a victory at DHS behind its defense and running game. To make it two in a row, Hahnville will have to topple an experienced, very talented DHS team that’s hungry for payback.
“They’ll probably be picked to win our district and to be a state finalist kind of team,” Saltaformaggio said. “I don’t think our kids ever stop thinking about Destrehan. The closer it gets, the more intense their thoughts are about it. It’s Hahnville and Destrehan. We know we’ll have our hands full.”
That said, he’s glad to have this one at home. Destrehan has hosted four of its five matchups with Hahnville since Saltaformaggio joined the Tigers, including a playoff matchup.
“The way our fans are and the crowd support we have … it’s always a bit easier when we’re at Hahnville,” Saltaformaggio said. “They’re all big ones when you only have 10 games, but it’s good to have those matchups with (Destrehan and Ehret) at our place.”
Saltaformaggio noted the next week will be no picnic, with an improved Terrebonne team playing host to Hahnville in a classic “trap game” environment. Then Hahnville has a three game home stand, with its homecoming game against Pearl River — the final non-district contest in the regular season for HHS — followed by visits from Thibodaux and East St. John. The Tigers close on the road against Central Lafourche and H.L. Bourgeois.
Saltaformaggio believes 7-5A will be a very tough district that’s improved across the board.
He also feels his team will be up for the task, both early and late.
“If you’re a championship quality program, you find a way to work through the tough stretches,” he said. “I think we have the makings of a really good football team.”