Marquee matchups the tale at St. Charles jamborees

It’s that time again in St. Charles Parish.Destrehan and Hahnville each leap into live action this week in jamboree competition, giving fans a taste of what they can expect from each program in the upcoming season.

It all kicks off Thursday night. Jesuit visits Hahnville at 5:30 p.m (JV/V), representing the third consecutive meeting between the schools on jamboree week. Meanwhile, Destrehan will host their traditional jamboree foe, Lutcher,  set for a 6 p.m.  (JV/V) kickoff in the Ed Reed River Parish Jamboree.

In each jamboree, the junior varsity teams of each school will square off before giving way to the varsity teams. The games are exhibitions and the final result will not count.

The Destrehan jamboree was rescheduled this week in anticipation of potential weather issues on Friday night, when the exhibition was originally slated to be played.

For Hahnville, Anthony Williams will be on display for the first time in his senior season. Williams, a Kansas-committed tailback, tallied more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scored over 30 times in a junior season that also saw him set his school’s all-time single game rushing record.

The jamboree also represents a chance to see new quarterback Jha’quan Jackson in action, as well as a Tigers defense that looked dominating in last week’s scrimmage effort against Northshore.

Jesuit, however, will provide a stern test. The Blue Jays have won each of the two jamboree meetings between the teams and is a perennial championship contender. The marquee of Jesuit at Hahnville, in many ways, says it all for prep football fans.

“For anyone like me, a prep football purist, it’s Jesuit High School,” said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said. “I love going against them. (Jesuit coach) Mark Songy and I are really good friends and he and his staff do an amazing job.”

Saltaformaggio said Jesuit presents unique challenges and that anyone who opposes the Blue Jays better be ready to hold their ground physically.

“They’ll come out in those two and sometimes three tight end formations, that inside/outside zone running, and mix up the power and the counter (plays),” Saltaformaggio said. “Their play action game is great. They put pressure on your defense to stay disciplined.”

Saltaformaggio said a major point of interest for he and his staff is to see if the defense can maintain the high level of play it established in last week’s scrimmage at Northshore. The Tigers shutout the Panthers that day, and Saltaformaggio said it was as strong a performance as he’s seen from his defense during his four seasons with the team.

“I want to see if we’re that good defensively,” Saltaformaggio said. “We haven’t been that good defensively since I‘ve been here. (In the past) we couldn’t get stops when we needed them. That was the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve seen us play defensive football where we were completely dominant at every level of the defense. We were faster, we tackled exceptionally well. I want to see if that can hold up.”

Meanwhile, while Destrehan has yet to lose in regular season competition since 2012, Lutcher has had its number in exhibition play the past two seasons.

In both instances, the Bulldogs won an entertaining thriller, the most recent a 25-24 comeback effort last season that saw quarterback Jontre Kirklin score on a keeper in the final minute of the scrimmage.

The two teams involved pair for about as hot a matchup you will find on the state’s gridiron, pitting a Destrehan team fresh off a Class 5A semifinalist finish and with a four-year regular season winning streak against a Lutcher team coming off of back-to-back championships and that’s gone 28-2 over the past two seasons.

“You know, it’s two programs that are fortunate to have a lot of success,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said. “Whenever those two teams get on the field, there are a lot of great athletes involved.

“It’s always a great matchup, last year a thriller down to the end. I think it’ll be the same this year.”

This year’s Wildcats feature some familiar faces in new roles, as J.R. Blood and John Emery step in as starting quarterback and running back, respectively.

Blood, a junior, shined last year in relief of injured starter Kohen Granier, and has yet to lose as a starter. Emery has been recruited by a number of SEC schools, including LSU, and tallied over 1,300 yards last year while sharing time with then-senior Kristian Mosley.

Robicheaux said the jamboree creates a fun atmosphere for everyone involved, but more importantly, a gauge for where his team is before wins and losses start to count.

“We played well in our scrimmage against Salmen,” Robicheaux said. “We ran the ball well, and that gives us a good feeling about our offensive line, with three new starters. J.R. was clean most of the night and there weren’t a whole lot of penalties.

“The jamboree is a dressed up scrimmage, but it’s another step up to get ready. We learned a little about ourselves against Salmen and this is another gauge.”


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