After a tumultuous start to the 2018 season, Hahnville will welcome some stability in the form of Nick Saltaformaggio’s return to the sideline.
Saltaformaggio served the last of what was a four-game suspension following an LHSAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations (see story on 1A), and will be leading his team when it travels to Terrebonne this Friday night in the team’s second week of District 7-5A competition.
“I’m excited about being back … (the absence) felt like it was never ending,” Saltaformaggio said.
The Tigers fought hard before ultimately falling 28-15 in its rivalry home game Friday against archrival Destrehan, which dropped Hahnville to 1-3 this season. A slow start means the Terrebonne game carries extra weight, as will all of the team’s games from this point forward: in Class 5A, it might take five wins in the final six games to reach the postseason, if not victories in all six games.
“Our kids are playing hard. Very, very hard,” Saltaformaggio said. “The energy is there at practice. But our backs are definitely against the wall.”
Terrebonne and Hahnville battled at Tiger Stadium in a shootout last season, Hahnville taking a 52-35 victory after a second half surge that put it in control.
Many of those same Terrebonne players have returned this season to form the core of an explosive team that’s off to an unbeaten start through four weeks, with wins over Ellender, South Terrebonne, Assumption and Patterson. Terrebonne has increased its point total each week, scoring 29, 34, 41 and 55, while allowing no more than 21 in a game.
Ja’khi Douglas, Keshawn James and Chaz Ward are the weapons that make the offense go — and did last season as well, when each of the three approached or exceeded 100 yards rushing against Hahnville, Douglas piling up 124 yards, James 112 and Ward 95.
Saltaformaggio said that stylistically, Terrebonne is similar to the Destrehan team his Tigers just faced, spreading the field with athletes and opening running lanes for its ball carriers.
“(Douglas, James and Ward) are very, very good football players,” Saltaformaggio said. “They’re feeling really good about their program right now. They won seven last year and now they’re unbeaten so far this year … they have tremendous skill. (wide receivers) Treveon Johnson and D’jon Scott are tremendous players as well. We know what we’re up against.”
Defensively, Saltaformaggio notes Terrebonne is big up front and can present problems to a blocking unit.
That Hahnville offensive line has been without a key starter for two weeks in Brant Griffin, just one of a number of setbacks the Tigers have endured so far. Beyond the publicized controversy surrounding Saltaformaggio’s suspension and quarterback Andrew Robison’s ineligibility, starting running back Darryle Evans is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. A flu outbreak weakened Hahnville in Week Two and could seize another key player this week as quarterback Andrew Naquin was battling the illness early this week.
“I’m almost afraid to ask what could possibly happen next,” Saltaformaggio said.
That said, there are mistakes Saltaformaggio said must be cleaned up and fast if Hahnville is to overcome its early season slump and reach the postseason. The team has averaged four turnovers a game and Saltaformaggio noted 14 points a game for the opposition have come off of turnovers.
“We have to get better fundamentally. Right now, we’re doing things that bad football teams do,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’re shanking punts, giving up a fake punt, personal fouls … these are correctable errors we can fix and hopefully we can do that. We just have to keep working hard.”Hahnville’s