Zachary bests Hahnville to capture 5A championship

Hahnville’s magical run through the postseason ended one victory shy of a state championship, as a second quarter explosion by Zachary spurred the Broncos past the Tigers and to their second Class 5A state championship in the past three seasons, 34-14.

The Tigers (12-3) led early, taking a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. But Zachary scored 27 unanswered points in that quarter to take a 27-7 lead into halftime.

“Hat’s off to Zachary, obviously an outstanding football team,” said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “To go up to West Monroe and win in the semifinals then come down and do what they did to us … it had been a long time since we’ve been kind of whipped like that offensively. They did an outstanding job … we lost to a worthy champion.”

The Broncos’ Keilon Brown earned the game’s Outstanding Player award. He rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown while passing for 55 yards and another score.

Hahnville’s Anthony Williams rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries. In all five of Hahnville’s games this postseason, Williams rushed for 200 yards or more.

“I think he’ll go down as one of the very greatest players in the history of prep football,” Saltaformaggio said. “We were doing his statistics earlier and he’s rushed for nearly seven miles. That’s not a bad body of work.”

But Zachary’s defense didn’t allow the Tigers to get much else going. The Broncos (13-2) intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble, while not allowing Williams or any other Tiger the team’s signature big plays in the running game.

“They really hemmed in Anthony,” Saltaformaggio said. “I don’t think he had any long runs tonight. And when you struggle to throw like we did … it all kinda adds up.”

Hahnville looked strong early. The Tigers made runs of 18, 15 and 11 yards, with Williams, Jha’Quan Jackson and Daryle Evans chewing up more than yards on the drive. But Jackson was shaken up on the game’s fifth play and sidelined for the rest of the drive with a knee injury, and HHS had to punt after a penalty set the drive back.

Hahnville’s Lyncoy Reynaud recovered a fumble in Zachary territory on the ensuing possession and Williams quickly made the Broncos pay on 27-yard run from the Wildcat for a score to make it 7-0 Hahnville.

But when the second quarter began, things quickly turned in Zachary’s favor. Darweshi Sanders’s 4-yard scoring run capped a 10 play, 71 yard drive that made it 7-6; Hahnville blocked the extra point attempt.

After a Hahnville punt, Brown made his biggest run of the night, taking the snap on the drive’s first play and blowing past the defense for a 80-yard touchdown run that made it 13-7.

Sanders added his second touchdown run of the night on Zachary’s next possession, going 37 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-7.

The Tigers began to get their offense going again late in the first half, but Zachary’s Maverick McClure recovered a fumble and returned it deep into Hahnville territory. Brown connected with Trae Shropshire for a 30-yard score with 39 seconds left before halftime to put Zachary ahead 27-7.

“That was devastating,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’re just not built to make up 21 points. We can make up two touchdowns, get a long run or force a turnover and get a short field… but when we got down by three scores, it was kinda tough … when we turned it over then they scored on the very next play, it knocked the wind out of us.”

Hahnville held Zachary’s offense scoreless in the second half but could not cut significantly into the Broncos’ lead. Jackson scored on a 1-yard keeper and Zachary’s Chris Hart scored on a 26-yard fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter.

Saltaformaggio said Jackson gutted out the rest of the game after injuring his knee on the first drive – he may have suffered a torn MCL, the coach said. He returned for the team’s second drive after donning a knee brace.

“He’s a true champion,” Saltaformaggio said. “We wouldn’t be here without him. He was hurting … it was a really valiant effort on his part.”

The biggest difference in the game, Saltaformaggio said, came down to Zachary’s speed at linebacker and defensive back.

“Their second level defenders could run really, really well. What we’ve been able to do all year long is block on the second level and continue our movement upfield … their backside guys were causing us tremendous heartache,” he said.


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