2-0. That sounds like sweet music to Nick Saltaformaggio’s ears.
Friday night’s 34-13 win at Mandeville marks the first time in Saltaformaggio’s tenure with the Tigers that his team has started 2-0, his teams known for starting a bit slow before picking up steam and finishing with a fury. But this year it was especially important to get off to an important start, with Hahnville’s schedule backloaded with heavy completion late in the year.
“It’s nice, it really is,” Saltaformaggio said. “We beat two quality, quality football teams. We play defense, and when you do, you have a shot every single week.”
It was indeed a defensive play that turned momentum in Hahnville’s favor just after halftime. The Tigers, leading 14-7, sacked Mandeville quarterback Devon Tott and forced a fumble. Hahnville recovered inside the Skippers’ 10, and Darryle Evans capped a quick drive with a 1-yard touchdown to make it a 21-7 HHS advantage.
With two minutes left in the third quarter, Trey Labranch took a handoff off left tackle and scored from 11 yards out to make it a 28-7 game. It was Labranch’s second scoring run of the night, following a first half where he and Jerry Spencer each punched in touchdown runs.
Zahn Diaz put Mandeville (1-0) back on the board on a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 28-13 with 9:34 remaining in the game. The Skippers attempted an onside kick, but Hahnville’s John Pearsall recovered. Mandeville’s defense forced a punt, but Hahnville’s own stop unit held firm midway through the fourth quarter to force a turnover on downs at midfield. A last gasp effort on Mandeville’s next possession ended on a Syre Lewis interception, helping to set up Evans’ second touchdown run of the night.
“We knew they had good receivers … good players, college recruits,” Lewis said. “So we had to show out. I had to get my technique down, and once that’s down, we’re good.”
Once Hahnville opened up a lead in the second half, the Tigers’ defensive front was free to rush Tott with impunity, the run all but negated from the equation.
“We love (getting a lead) a lot. That’s what we love the most at practice, working on rushing the passer,” said defensive tackle Adonis Friloux. “The most exciting thing there is as a defensive lineman is getting a sack.”
Saltaformaggio said the turnovers Hahnville’s been able to force have been the difference in the team’s hot start this year. Mandeville topped the 60 point barrier last week, but could not get on track against a dominant Tigers’ front. On Friday, Hahnville forced four Skipper turnovers.
“Two weeks in a row, we’ve forced some huge turnovers,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’re big and physical up front and we’re athletic on the back end.”
For a group of players Saltaformaggio says have been determined to restore Hahnville to “where it should be” after a 6-6 record last season, it’s been a case of backing up their intentions.
“I’ve been playing for this program for four years,” said Friloux, a senior. “We’ve been through a lot of bumps and curves … this is really exciting. I can’t wait to see what we can do for the rest of this season.”