As they did in last week’s matchup against Haughton, Hahnville will need its defense to create turnovers and stop the run if they hope to knock off No. 4 Destrehan on Friday night.
The Tigers trailed for much of their 28–14 road victory over Haughton.
“We just weren’t finishing drives,” Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio said.
But a scooped fumble and 52-yard touchdown by linebacker Peyton Robert with only three minutes left in the game gave Hahnville a late lead in its ultimate upset of No. 5 Haughton.
“It shows tremendous resiliency,” Saltaformaggio said. “Our kids and our coaches both believed we were gonna come home with a victory.”
Saltaformaggio said his team handled the more than 5-hour journey to the grassy field of Haughton well, noting that he has prepared his team to accept travel as a part of winning a championship.
The Tigers now face, for the second time this year, a Destrehan team that has thus far averaged more than 40 points per game. Destrehan demolished East St. John in the second round, 68-14.
Hahnville is going into next week with an offense that has been inconsistent.
“We can’t give them a bunch of extra possessions, because we sure can’t move the ball,” Saltaformaggio said.
The Tigers have a particularly strong backfield, but its defensive line has had trouble containing the run.
Destrehan, meanwhile, has been prolific in gaining points on the ground. In addition to a downhill runner in Will Matthews, wide receiver Kirk Merritt has also surprised defenses with long gains when taking handoffs.
Quarterback Marquise Darensbourg rounds out the offense, presenting a dangerous threat on the ground and through the air. In last week’s game against East St. John, Darensbourg found three different receivers for touchdowns that spanned 55, 16 and 55 yards.
But Destrehan has also been dominant on defense, limiting opponents to less than 10 points per game since the start of regular season, and shutting out Pineville in the postseason.
Saltaformaggio said the key is to play “tackle football” and make sure to limit Destrehan’s big plays through decisive tackling.
Hahnville fell to Destrehan 24-6 in their last meeting after Destrehan came alive in the second half. After that loss, Saltaformaggio told reporters “we simply are not there yet.” This week, while still not quick to go back on his words, he notes that the journey to the semifinals has been an unexpected one.
“We’re now one of the last eight teams,” Saltaformaggio said. “No one thought we would be here except us.”
In the last meeting, Destrehan’s defense held the up-to-that-point productive Hahnville running game to 137 yards. Sophomore Austin Perrin was in his second start following the collarbone fracture of quarterback Mike Neal.
Hahnville’s sole touchdown against Destrehan came on a 55-yard strike from Perrin to senior Brandon Singleton. Saltaformaggio said the rematch will require that his team find a way to “get the ball to [Rickey] Preston and Singleton.”
“[Destrehan’s] front seven completely dominated our team,” Saltaformaggio said of the loss. “We simply could not run the ball against them.”
Though Saltaformaggio said he hopes they can get the run game moving against Destrehan this time, he said the biggest factor will be “controlling the crowd.” In spite of this, he brushed off suggestions that the inter-parish rivalry would have an impact.
“The pressure comes from the fact that it’s the quarterfinals, not that it’s Destrehan,” Saltaformaggio said.
Hahnville travels to Destrehan the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 28, with kickoff at 7 p.m.