After a trying season in many ways, Hahnville is playing just the way head coach Nick Saltaformaggio likes in at least one respect.
“We’re playing with a mean streak,” Saltaformaggio said. “They play like they’re mad, and in a very good way.”
The Tigers went 6-6 in 2018 in a season full of off-field distractions and on-field inconsistency. Hahnville improved greatly as the season went on, however, and a very experienced group of starters return for what many observers expect will be a major rebound season — and return with sour memories of last year’s down season.
“I told them good teams are gonna play mean all the time,” Saltaformaggio said. “Our motto is hungry Tigers hunt best. And we’re hungry. People knocked us around a little bit last year, so we’re a little hungry.”
Last week, Hahnville knocked out an overmatched Grace King team early on en route to a 50-0 jamboree win. This week’s season opener at Denham Springs Friday night, however, should prove far more challenging—and of course, this one will officially count in the standings.
Denham Springs is led by senior quarterback Luke Lunsford, a three-year starter who distributes the ball to a talented group of wide receivers in Troy Golmond and Phillip Earnhart.
“They want to get you out of your coverage zones, hit you underneath and use a lot of play action and misdirection in the passing game,” Saltaformaggio said.
Their running game is paced by rushers Jaylen Jenkins and Jase Zachary behind an offensive line with good size. Zachary is moved around the formation to create mismatches, using his versatile skills as a receiver along with his running talents.
“They’ve got some guys, no doubt about it,” Saltaformaggio said. “For us, we have to get some pressure on (Lunsford), get him off his mark and moving around a bit. We’ve got to be where we’re supposed to be in our coverages, but more importantly, we’ve gotta pressure them.”
Defensively, outside linebacker/defensive end Kaydon Berard must be accounted for, said Hahnville offensive coordinator Daniel Luquet.
“He’s a big physical kid, they like to stand him on the edge,” Luquet said. “He comes upfield and covers well in space. We’ve gotta know where he’s at … they’ll put him on both sides because he covers so much space.”
The Denham defensive front as a whole is the strength of that unit, Luquet said, among its other standouts outside linebacker Omari Warren.
“They eliminate the perimeter and try to funnel it all inside to the middle linebackers,” he said. “We’ve got to put pressure on them and keep them from what they do best, getting upfield.”
HAHNVILLE ROARS PAST KING: Hahnville was truly the proverbial caged, pacing Tiger prior to its jamboree at home against Grace King.
The team’s preseason scrimmage against Northshore rained out after 20 plays. And the start to the Tigers’ jamboree game was delayed from scheduled start time for approximately 90 minutes after two earlier jamboree scrimmages at HHS ran long.
“It just made us hungrier,” said Darryle Evans, who scored two touchdowns en route to a dominant 50-0 effort over the visiting Irish.
After 3:30 of play, Hahnville led 23-0 on the back of three quick touchdowns and a safety.
Evans’ first touchdown of the night came of an explosive play, a 50-yard run that put the Tigers up 7-0. After scoring, the emotion of the moment was readily apparent on his face — Evans was sidelined late last season due to a knee injury — yelling “I’m back” as he was surrounded by cheering teammates.
“I was just happy to be back,” he said. “I dreamed of this night, this moment, the whole year. The offensive line deserves a shoutout. Everything starts with them, we just followed them, and the big boys led us to the promised land tonight.”
Logan Brimmer and Adonis Friloux combined to force a safety to make it 9-0. Then on the ensuing safety kick, Corey Lorio fielded and took it the distance to make the lead 16-0. HHS corner Syre Lewis took advantage of a King mistake on the ensuing kickoff, recovering a fumble that set up Evans for his second touchdown run and a 23-0 HHS advantage.
Drew Naquin connected with Jerry Spencer over the middle to push the lead to 30-0. It was the first of two Spencer scores. Trey Labranch and Cole Villasenor each added touchdown runs for the Tigers, who were just as dominant on defense en route to the shutout.