On the whole, 2018 wasn’t a year most involved with the Hahnville football program will look back on fondly, nor its fans. But following a season of controversy off the field and resilience on it, it may well have set the table for the Tigers to take a leap forward in 2019.
The majority of Hahnville starters return after a season that saw the Tigers start 1-4 — including an 0-2 district hole —before clawing back to earn a 6-6 finish and first round victory on the road over a top 10 seed in Walker in the Class 5A postseason, before ultimately bowing out in round two to eventual state champion Zachary.
After 10 days of spring work, Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio believes this team has the chance to do some damage. Defensively, where the Tigers return the most experience, the veteran coach’s team has a chance to be truly special, he believes.
“We’re way ahead of where I thought we’d be to close spring practice,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’ve got one of the best players in the state in (defensive lineman) Adonis Friloux and a really good defensive end on the other side of him in Logan Brimmer. Our linebackers are all back, and a year better, stronger and faster. John Pearsall is as good a linebacker as you’ll see.”
The secondary is also stout and full of returning starters, including Syre Lewis, Elijah Hamilton and Robert Jackson. Starting invert Lentrell Pettetant is back, while joining him is a new addition in Brandon Comardelle, who moves over to the defense from running back.
“He’s giving us that toughness and speed he had at running back. He’ll still carry it some,” Saltaformaggio said. “I think he’s really looked good and solidifies us defensively. We have the opportunity to be a special defensive football team.”
On the other side of the ball, the offense is adjusting to a new plan of attack under new offensive coordinator Daniel Luquet. Luquet has most recently been head coach of Woodlawn, but resigned from that post to move to the Hahnville staff.
“We’re adjusting to a new system, and we’ve had many pleasant surprises emerge this spring,” Saltaformaggio said.
Junior Andrew Naquin takes the helm at quarterback. He saw starting reps last year while sharing time with Jha’Quan Jackson and, late in the year, Andrew Robison.
At running back, Darryle Evans is back and has looked strong, while Trey LaBranch has had a “really, really great spring,” according to Saltaformaggio. A young group of speedy, talented wide receivers have also flashed.
The group where the team has seemingly improved most from day one of spring camp has been along the offensive line, where Saltaformaggio believes he’ll have a physical, hungry group ready to go.
“Watching them develop has helped me sleep a little easier at night,” Saltaformaggio said. “They’re blocking what I consider one of the better defensive fronts in Louisiana, so that’s nine days they had against a really good, experienced front.
“They’ve been tough, physical run blockers, and that’s what I’ve wanted this group to be.”