Tigers wrap up spring, retooling on both sides of ball

Anthony Williams
Hahnville’s Anthony Williams will receive a bigger workload in 2017.

Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio expressed some guarded optimism after his Tigers wrapped up their 10 day spring practice session with a scrimmage at D’Iberville (Miss.) last Friday night. “I thought we had 10 pretty good days,” Saltaformaggio said. “Of course, you always wish you could get a few more, because we needed some work.”

Hahnville went 9-3 last season, including a first round win and second round loss in the postseason. The Tigers faced off in their annual spring scrimmage with a D’Iberville squad that advanced to the Class 6A semifinals last season. At the end of the scoring session, D’Iberville bested Hahnville four touchdowns to two, the Tigers scoring on long runs by Anthony Williams and Michael Williams.

Saltaformaggio said the experience was a necessary one for a team that will overhaul much of its team this season, particularly on defense, where HHS must replace nine starters from a year ago. The strong level of competition was also something he felt his team needed to experience early on, with another stacked front end of the schedule awaiting Hahnville this fall: West Jefferson, Brother Martin, John Ehret, Destrehan and a jamboree scrimmage against Jesuit will all be on the early slate.

“They put a bit of a ‘whuppin’ on us,” Saltaformaggio said. “That’s a really, really good football team. We got out of it what we wanted to get out of it, a lot of good work against a quality team. Obviously, on the scoring end of it, we didn’t fare well. But these are the types of teams we’ll be facing early on, and so this tells us how much work that has to be done over the summer. We know there’s a whole lot of work still left to do.”

Returning safety Hunter LeBlanc is a player Saltaformaggio is relying on to set the tone for an inexperienced stop unit. He will be a senior next season.

“He’s been our guy,” Saltaformaggio said. “He has some college football offers, so people are realizing he has ability. He brings toughness to our defense. He’s a 3-year starter and he’s kind of the rock we’re building around.”

In the front seven, Lyncoy Reynaud and Amonte’ Jernigan (will be a senior and junior, respectively) have both had strong springs and will be building blocks. The first will play on the line, the second at linebacker.

Jernigan, Saltaformaggio said, has made a huge push as an underclassman.

“We need a guy to step up, and I think we’ve got one in him,” Saltaformaggio said. “He’s a rising junior, a kid who is always around the football. He has a great motor. (LeBlanc, Reynaud and Jernigan) are the three guys we’re building it around defensively.”

On the other side of the ball, the Tigers will break in a new quarterback. Jha’quan Jackson will be a junior this fall, and the former wide receiver will take the reins from Austin Perrin, who departs with his graduation.

Jackson, Saltaformaggio said, has strong desire to be great and has been extremely coachable. His mobility gives him a chance to extend plays outside the pocket, where Saltaformaggio said his new passer is extremely comfortable.

“He’s an excellent student and a very, very good person,” Saltaformaggio said. “He reminds me of quarterbacks I’ve had in the past, a guy who can make something out of nothing when everything breaks down. He has the wheels and athletic ability to make a bad play really good.”

The centerpiece of the offense — more than ever — projects to be returning All-State running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams.

Running behind an offensive line powered by four players approaching or exceeding 300 pounds and a 260-pound center, he should be able to find some room. That could be bad news for opponents; Williams already set Hahnville’s single-game rushing record last season when he gained 355 yards on 30 carries in district competition against Thibodaux.

In that game, fellow rusher Davonte Clark was forced out with injury, pushing Williams into a larger role. That could be closer to the norm this season: Saltaformaggio and new offensive coordinator Mike Silva — who succeeds Lester Ricard after Ricard’s departure to become head coach of Walker — have made it a point of emphasis to increase Williams’ workload this season and allow the explosive, versatile Kansas-commitment to make an even greater impact.

“He really has risen to the challenge,” Saltaformaggio said. “He has every year, but I think this year, especially, because he’ll be more on an integral part of our offensive football team. Last year, he was about a 12-to-15 touch per game player. This year, he’ll be more like a 20-to-25 touch per game player. He’s responded very well to the extra work.”


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