Better late than never was the theme of the Hahnville Tigers’ 25-8 victory over the Higgins Hurricanes Friday night as the Tigers trailed 8-3 going into the fourth quarter. But the team rebounded with 22 points in the last 10 minutes of the game to pick up their second district win.
The defense was the story of the night as they became the first team to hold the potent Higgins offense to single digits this season. The Purple Haze snatched up four turnovers in the game, three of them interceptions by defensive backs Jamal Smith, Tyren Hills and Jerqwinick Sandolph.
“Our defense played outstanding,” said Hahnville Head Coach Lou Valdin. “Higgins runs the option, so our guys had to be disciplined. We had good coverage on the receivers and our pass rush was great.”
Over the first three quarters of the game, the Tigers could only manage a field goal. And after Higgins quarterback Cedric Jackson and running back Darrell Williams teamed up on big runs that resulted in a touchdown late in the third quarter, things were starting to look bleak. But something clicked in the fourth quarter.
“It was a combination of turnovers and good field position that helped us at the end,” Valdin said. “In the first half, we were playing in our backyard.”
A key pass from quarterback Easton Melancon to wide receiver Ronny Green and the running of backs Ernest Thompson and Travis Faucheaux led to the Tigers first touchdown. Thompson was the one to take it in to give Hahnville the lead.
Thompson would go on to score all three Tiger touchdowns, the final one with a dramatic 54-yard rumble. He would finish with 119 yards rushing on the night.
“Ernest ran extremely well, especially in the red zone,” said Valdin. “Travis Faucheaux and Michael Ford ran very hard as well. You can’t have enough backs because it keeps them fresh.”
Turnovers were the key for Hahnville the rest of the way. After the first Tiger touchdown, a good kickoff by the special teams forced Higgins to start from their own 5-yard line. A couple of plays later, the Tiger defense forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive back Anthony Mott. Higgins was still fighting after the Tigers scored once more, but an interception by Sandolph killed their hopes of victory and sealed the game for Hahnville.
“The big interception was the nail in the coffin,” said Valdin. “Our defensive line kept the quarterback contained on that play and forced him to throw it. That was the difference between this game and the East St. John game. We still played well on defense, but we didn’t force turnovers in that game.”
The victory brings the Tigers back to .500 at 4-4, while they improve to 2-1 in district. The possibility of a district championship depends on East St. John losing to Higgins or Bonnabel, but the win over Higgins keeps them in the hunt.
This Friday, the Tigers take on a John Ehret team that began the season 0-5, but have since defeated Destrehan and Bonnabel to tie with Hahnville and Higgins with a 2-1 district record. Despite their overall record, Valdin is not taking the Patriots lightly.
“They’re in the same boat we’re in,” said Valdin. “It doesn’t matter that they started 0-5, the winner of this game will be tied for first place in district if Higgins beats East St. John.”
John Ehret features the option, run by quarterback Mike Alexander. Alexander is a threat to run and is a good passer, both qualities Hahnville has seen a lot of recently in East St. John and Higgins quarterbacks Darion Monroe and Cedric Jackson.
“Ehret is very similar,” said Valdin. “Seeing the same offense three weeks in a row can only help us. In a way, we’ve been practicing for Ehret for three weeks.”
Valdin is also concerned about the size of Ehret running back Trey Martin. He feels that Higgins exposed a weakness last week with their big back, Darrell Williams, and he wants to make sure that Ehret is not able to repeat that success.
There is little concern in Valdin’s mind about looking ahead to next week’s rivalry game with Destrehan because he’s got his team focused on one thing right now: wins.
“We need wins,” he said. “We win both of these last two games and we’re guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. If we lose, we’ll need help. We’re playing better at this point. We’re a good team and I sure would like to continue to make some noise in the playoffs.”