Tigers try to ride momentum into postseason opener

On the heels of a school-record breaking performance by Hahnville running back Anthony Williams last Friday night, the Tigers enter the Class 5A postseason hoping to parlay their red hot play over the second half of the season into a Superdome run.

No. 8 seed Hahnville (8-2) opens the postseason against No. 25 Covington (5-5) at Tiger Stadium Friday night riding a six-game winning streak. Hahnville has scored 40 points or more in each of those wins, the first of those a thrilling comeback victory over St. Thomas More.

“I just want us to keep playing like we’re playing,” said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio, who has led HHS to the postseason in each of his prior seasons with the team. “I don’t know what happened in the last two minutes of the St. Thomas More game, be it divine intervention or that we finally started doing what we’ve wanted, but I’m just glad it happened.”

Hahnville’s lone two losses this season came to Destrehan and Riverside, both number one seeds in their classification.

Williams totaled over 700 all-purpose yards over the Tigers’ first two postseason games last season. He already appears to be kicking things into high gear in 2016. In last week’s win over visiting Thibodaux, Williams rushed for a career high and Hahnville record 355 yards to go along with four touchdowns.

“I’ll keep saying it. He’s the best football player in the state of Louisiana,” Saltaformaggio said. “We felt like if we get him the ball with some creases, we’d be good and that’s what happened. “Somebody needs to show me a better football player. I mean I know other teams have great ones … Karr has great ones. Brother Martin has a great one. Curtis, I’m sure has theirs … but they’re not him. I’m glad he’s a Hahnville Tiger.”

Saltaformaggio noted the Tigers just missed the chance to jump up to the fifth seed, if not for Patterson’s defeat at the hands of Franklin last week. But the 8th seed still means potentially two home games back-to-back to start the postseason, which the coach would certainly welcome.

The first matchup, Saltaformaggio warns, is no cakewalk. Covington enters the postseason fresh off a victory over rival Mandeville and has a history of success.

“They’re one of most storied programs in the state,” Saltaformaggio said. “Coach Salter has done a tremendous job. He’s the grandson of a hall of famer. Their stadium named after Jack Salter. Then we’re dealing with a team of really good football players. Their running back is one of the best in the state and they like to run the football. Defensively, they’re a really big, stout team. They come from a tough Northshore district.”

Were Hahnville to advance, it gets no easier, Saltaformaggio notes, calling the top of the 5A bracket “loaded.” Their potential path could include the second state quarterfinal against archrival Destrehan in the past three seasons.

“We have to stay focused on each week,” Saltaformaggio said. “We can’t look ahead, not just by the week but by the day. We need to focus on doing everything you can that day to get better and get ready.”

Saltaformaggio, who led his East Jefferson team to the first state championship in that school’s history in 2013, said the teams that will find success going forward are the ones who are willing to continue to pay the price.

“The playoffs are about the team that wants to keep practicing and keep working for five more weeks,” Saltaformaggio said. “The guys who want to keep it going at the end of the season, that’s who asserts themselves and gets to the Superdome.”

Williams’ night for the ages last week helped propel HHS to a 44-27 victory over visiting Thibodaux Friday night, locking Hahnville in as District 7-5A runner-up.

Williams took on a bigger workload after an early-game injury to senior running back Devonte Clark. Williams, who often shifts to wide receiver when the bigger Clark is in the game, had to take up residence at tailback for the duration of the night. He was up to the challenge.

“The line made the holes, and once they did, I did what I do best,” Williams said. “I was trying to get to (400 yards), I won’t lie. They alerted me on the sideline (of his statline). Once Devonte went down, I had to do it. I’ve gotta help my senior. He’s down and I had to step up.”

Thibodaux (6-4, 4-2) leaped out to a 13-0 lead in the game, kickstarting their night with Rochon Washington’s 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Hahnville rallied to score the next 20 points—including a touchdown runs of 24 and 70 yards by Williams — but a late Thibodaux score in the second quarter made it a 20-20 halftime tie.

A Dalton Melancon field goal in the third quarter lifted HHS to a 3-point lead. Then Hunter LeBlanc intercepted Kevon Williams and returned the pickoff for a touchdown to make it a 10-point Hahnville lead.

“The pick six was big,” Saltaformaggio said. “That was a huge turning point for us. It made the kids exhale a little bit.”

Williams added two more scores to help Hahnville pull away. The defense got a boost from Elgin Collins and Travon Honor, who each intercepted passes.

 

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