Hahnville entered Friday night with the chance to advance to the Class 5A quarterfinals and avenge its state championship loss of a year ago as it hosted Zachary Friday night. But the Broncos looked every bit the part of a defending state champion, and they ultimately brought the Tigers roller coaster ride of a season to an end.
Zachary, the No. 6 seed, scored on all of its second half possessions en route to a 41-20 second round playoff victory before a packed house at Tiger Stadium.
R.J. Allen scored four touchdowns for the Broncos, while Keilon Brown once again proved a difference maker for his team by extending drives, be it on short throws, long bombs or with his legs.
No. 22 seeded Hahnville (6-6) drove straight down the field on its opening possession, riding its rushing attack down to the Zachary 2. But on fourth and goal from the 2, Zachary stopped Hahnville quarterback
Andrew Robison just short of the goal line. Zachary scored on its ensuing possession, and the opening drive proved Hahnville’s sharpest until late in the game.
“They’re very, very good,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said. “We just felt if we could punch that one in and make them a little nervous, it might help us … but they have special talent. Keilon Brown for sure … they throw the ball well and catch it well. And they were giving us a five-man box and we couldn’t block them. They really re-established the line of scrimmage on us.”
For Robison, the loss brought an abbreviated senior season to an end after just three starts. He finished the night 14-for-28 for 155 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while rushing 12 times for 54 yards. While showing much of the escapability that’s made him a highly-regarded passer—on one penalty-ridden drive, Robison scrambled and found receivers downfield on back-to-back improbable plays, though each was called back — the pressure Zachary’s defense was able to put on the senior primarily via its defensive line ultimately short-circuited the Tiger offense.
“They were dropping six or seven guys every time … we hadn’t seen that before,” Robison said. “Zachary will probably go to the state championship … they’re a really, really good team. We tried to make some adjustments, but against a team like that you can’t afford to underthrow a post in the endzone that would be a touchdown, you can’t afford to not be on the same page as your receivers … it’s frustrating, but no excuses. Zachary’s a great team.”
Zachary (10-2) scored its first touchdown on an 11-yard Allen run with 2:48 left in the first quarter. He would finish the night with 146 yards on 23 carries.
After the Tigers were forced to punt, though, Max Farrell gave his team life when he jumped a Brown pass and returned an interception for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked and Zachary led 7-6 with 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
Jerry Spencer hauled in a reception from Robison that got Hahnville down to the Zachary 35, but after several penalties — that saw Hahnville face a second-and-54 at one point — Robison was intercepted at the Zachary 2 on a deep ball intended for Jha’Quan Jackson. Two plays later, Brown connected with Chandler Whitfield on a go-route for an 85-yard score. It gave Zachary a 14-6 lead at half.
“At halftime, I told our guys the first six minutes of the second half would be the game’s most important, and that held true,” Saltaformaggio said.
Zachary marched down the field after taking the second half kickoff and Allen scored on his second 11-yard touchdown run of the night to make it 20-6 with 9:19 left in the third. It was Allen again to cap Zachary’s next drive, this time on a 4-yard run to make it 27-6.
Scant hopes of a comeback were dashed when Sean Burrell intercepted a Robison pass and took it in for a score to make it 34-6 early in the fourth quarter.
Robison and Spencer connected for a touchdown and Robison later ran another in, while Allen added his fourth score in the fourth.
Comardelle finished with 81 rushing yards on 14 carries. Spencer caught five passes for 76 yards to lead the Tigers in receiving, while Jonathan Hill added three catches for 38 yards.
Brown completed 13 of 20 passes for 268 yards for Zachary. Whitfield led all receivers with 205 yards on seven catches.
While a difficult loss for he and his team, Saltaformaggio said his players still have much to be proud of this season.
“I told ‘em, don’t let tonight define your season,” Saltaformaggio said. “Let these 48 minutes hurt a little bit, but at the end of the day, if I said at 1-4, I think we’re gonna make the state playoffs, you’d have probably put me in the loony bin.
“Our kids were very, very resilient and played very, very hard. We’ve got a lot of good players coming back. We’ll regroup, get in the weight room, get stronger, faster and get into spring football.”