Hahnville Tigers search for answers, visit Crusaders

Corey LaBranch
Corey LaBranch chases down a ballcarrier.

In the wake of his team’s 26-0 loss to John Ehret last week, Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio acknowledged Brother Martin as a dangerous opponent, but emphasized that for the time being, Hahnville’s focus has to be on Hahnville.

“We have to find a way to get better. We just do,” said Saltaformaggio, expected to serve the third of a four game suspension this Friday night. “It’s not about our opponent. It’s what can we do to find the Hahnville way again, because last week, we didn’t look like the team I’m used to seeing.”

Saltaformaggio does believe his players have been put in a tough spot thus far this season, with each week delivering what he described as a “gut-punch,” from the initial release of the LHSAA’s ruling to declare quarterback Andrew Robison ineligible and Saltaformaggio suspended, to a shortened week of practice due to storm preparation, to a flu outbreak in the Tigers’ locker room. Injuries to key players like running back Darryle Evans and left guard Brant Griffin have not helped, either.

“It’s not even week three yet,” Saltaformaggio said of losing a starting quarterback, running back and offensive lineman.

But he also said that no matter what the circumstances dictated, Hahnville was thoroughly outplayed last week in a 26-0 loss to John Ehret at Tiger Stadium, and that a bounce-back performance carries greater importance in the wake of such a resounding defeat.

“It’s always important to win the next game after a loss, but that especially holds true when you’ve lost so badly,” Saltaformaggio said.

Brother Martin doesn’t figure to make it easy to find solutions. The Crusaders were the last team to best Hahnville in 2017 before the Tigers embarked on an 11-game winning streak en route to the Class 5A championship game, holding Hahnville to just six points in a 21-6 victory.

The Crusaders (1-1) defeated Petal High School of Mississippi in this season’s opening week, 35-14, but fell to Warren Easton last week by a 41-20 score.

Brother Martin quarterback Drew Martin completed 19-of-38 passes last week for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns, to Casey Cain and Michael Clapp, respectively. Chris Smith scored on a 4-yard run as well for the Crusaders.

“(Martin) is a really good player,” Saltaformaggio said. “Overall, what they do well is what they always do well. That’s a system football program where the names may change, but guys come up and run what they did the year before and the year before that, and they do it effectively. Coach (Mark) Bonis and his staff do a very good job preparing them.”

Saltaformaggio said what the Crusaders may lack athletically, they make up for in moxie and passion.

“The kids love playing for their school and they’ve been in that same system since the 8th grade,” Saltaformaggio said. “They’re the product of consistency, repetition and pride.”

Defensively, nose guard Akil Smith and defensive end Kyle West are among difference makers up front on the line. ON the bank end, free safety Joshua Payne-Morgan is an athletic playmaker who plays as a hybrid linebacker/safety and can give an offense fits.

“You have to account for him. He moves around a lot,” Saltaformaggio said of Payne-Morgan. “The kids are always in the right spot and they’re gonna be downhill tacklers.”

SHIFTING GEARS: The Tigers (2-0) hope to hear some good news this week as result of the St. Charles Parish school district’s appeal to the LHSAA to reinstate Robison and Saltaformaggio, but a new passer figures to line up under center and in shotgun for the Tigers this week regardless.

Sophomore Andrew Naquin, who played extensively in the second half of last week’s game, will step in for senior Jha’Quan Jackson, who will move back to wide receiver, where he played during the spring and most of the summer.

Naquin was initially being groomed to be the Tigers’ starter this season before Robison’s transfer from Vandebilt Catholic. He and Jackson connected twice on Friday and that combination figures to potentially produce more and more as the season goes on.

“We’ve got to settle in on one guy,” Saltaformaggio said. “It’s like the old Jim Finks line … if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you really don’t have one … to me, if there’s a question or you’re struggling, put the young guy in and let him grow, because he’s the guy who will be here for the next few years.”

Saltaformaggio said he thought Naquin showed progress during the second half against Ehret.

“Looking at the film, I thought he had a pretty good half against a good Ehret defense. Maybe it’s the boost of confidence he needs to carry it forward.”

 

 

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