For three years, St. Charles Parish’s annual Battle on the River rivalry clash featured a truly special showcase of rival rushers: on one side Hahnville’s Pooka Williams, on the other Destrehan’s John Emery. Both elite producers, high end collegiate recruits and clutch performers for their teams. These days, the two are channeling their talents with the University of Kansas and LSU, respectively.
They were tough acts to follow. But the Wildcats’ Kyle Edwards and the Tigers’ Darryle Evans both were ready to face exactly that challenge, and both are in the midst of sensational senior years, cemented among the state’s very best running backs.
The two share many bonds as players, chief among them their love of contact. Williams and Emery could both run through tackles, but defenses perhaps feared their knack for blasting off for explosive plays most; Edwards and Evans, meanwhile, are tone-setters, the power game their respective calling card.
Edwards has rushed 167 times this season for 1,007 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding another 99 yards and a score through the air. Evans has tallied 1,017 yards and 18 touchdowns on 161 rush attempts, with 222 yards and three scores added through the air.
Like Emery before him, Edwards has long had the eye of major collegiate programs, and he too is headed to play for SEC royalty next fall: in August, he committed to play for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama. At 6’0, 210 pounds, he runs with power and purpose, overall fitting the bill as a prototype Southeastern Conference rusher.
At times this season, with injuries befalling key offensive teammates, Edwards has been up to the task of carrying the Wildcats offense on his back when necessary.
Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said that getting to Edwards when he’s the ballcarrier is only the beginning to the process of slowing the star back down.
“His physical strength is incredible,” Saltaformaggio said. “I’ve watched him have a few runs where he was tackled, he was all but down, and suddenly he pops out and scores. When you’re playing against a guy who, not only is it the SEC after him, but the University of Alabama, as well as the University of Michigan, those schools want him to play football for them … you get an idea of what you’re about to go against.”
Evans, meanwhile, has not received that level of collegiate attention, a fact Saltaformaggio has been outspoken about throughout the season – “Evans is special,” Saltaformaggio said after Evans put on a show in a win over Central Lafourche. “And it’s a shame nobody seems to know about him outside of the people at Hahnville.”
While Evans was productive in 2018, the Tigers’ offense struggled as he split carries with another standout back, Brandon Comardelle. He missed the late stages of the year after suffering a knee injury.
But he returned to full health in 2019 and has carried the lion’s share of the carries for Hahnville, his team’s clear offensive centerpiece. Saltaformaggio has used the phrase “best player, best play” for his philosophy for key spots offensively, and “best player” universally has referred to Evans in such cases.
Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said Evans has a particular knack for shedding tackles.
“You watch him on film and the first person who gets there never tackles him,” Robicheaux said. “Getting to the ball and making the tackle is our focus this week. He’s the best running back I’ve seen in a long time at breaking tackles. He’s shifty and powerful, and he always seems to be able to get hit three or four times and take it to the house.”
Both coaches agree on one thing for sure: the team that is able to control the ball and the line of scrimmage is the one that will likely emerge as victor—as such, Edwards and Evans will each likely have much to say as to which team earns bragging rights along the river this season.