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Destrehan continues to be measuring stick for ‘Salt’

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  • George Becnel
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  • September 18, 2017 - 9:07pm

File photosHahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio (right) is 0-4 in head-to-head meetings against Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux (left) in the rivalry series.

Ever since Nick Saltaformaggio arrived at Hahnville four years ago, he always has used Destrehan as a measuring stick for his program.

On Monday, Saltaformaggio was in a comparative mood.

One such comparison for Saltaformaggio was Hahnville and Destrehan’s responses to Week 2 losses. Destrehan bounced back from its loss to St. Charles Catholic last week with a 44-25 win over John Ehret while Hahnville lost 21-6 to Brother Martin.

“Those guys know how to win games,” Saltaformaggio said of the Wildcats. “Last week is a perfect example. They are coming off a tough loss to St. Charles Catholic and turn around and beat a good Ehret team.

“That last week really shows the separation of where the two programs are right now. Instead of us carrying the momentum over two pretty good weeks of football, we lay an egg.”

Another area of comparison is the quarterback situation at each school with Destrehan starter J.R. Blood and his Hahnville counterpart, Jha’Quan Jackson.

“If there is a significant difference in the game Friday night against us and for them, it’s at quarterback,” Saltaformaggio said. “It all goes back to the quarterback. They have a junior, we have a junior. They have a junior that has 13 games of experience under his belt. We have a junior that doesn’t have 13 quarters of football as a quarterback under his belt.”

Blood arrived on the scene in last year’s Destrehan-Hahnville thriller. Kohen Granier, the Wildcats’ season quarterback, injured his knee at the end of the first half and Blood was pressed into action.

A sophomore at the time, Blood responded by guiding the Wildcats to a 31-28 triumph when Destrehan kicker Brady Quinn connected on a 27-yard field goal with eight seconds left in the game.

“Last year when Granier got hurt in our game, they had gotten through the rough part of their schedule so they were able to play Blood for a significant time against teams than they were going to be more talented against anyway. It really, really helped him this year,” Saltaformaggio said.

Meanwhile, Jackson switched over from receiver to quarterback in the offseason. With an inexperienced quarterback, the Tigers passing game has been pretty much non-existent. Through three games, Jackson is 4 of 16 passing for 38 yards.

Otherwise, Saltaformaggio said his team compares favorably with Destrehan.

“They have (John) Emery, we have ‘Pooka’ (Anthony Williams). Their defense is pretty good, our defense is pretty good. They have (Quinton) Torbor, we have (Jamel) Byrd. The difference is we really haven’t been able to use Byrd because we can’t get the ball to him.”

Emery and Destrehan’s running game got back on track a week ago as the junior rushed for 166 of the team’s 192 yards on the ground in the victory over Ehret.

“I don’t think everything starts and stops with him,” said Saltaformaggio, referring to Emery. “They have good players besides him.”

Defensively, the Wildcats feature a typical Destrehan unit, according to Saltaformaggio.

“They will be very sound. You will get an odd front. You are going to get a drop end. They are going to play a very solid three-deep coverage. They will not leave a lot of windows or holes. They always run very well,” the Hahnville coach said.

Top defenders for Destrehan, Saltaformaggio said, include linebackers Noah Taliancich and Robert Hall, along with Macon Clark.

Playing the likes of West Jefferson, John Ehret and Brother Martin, the Hahnville coach said he suspected another tough start to the season was possible.

“I knew going in it was possible we could come out of these first four weeks at 1-3,” Saltaformaggio said. “If we don’t win Friday night, we are going to come out of these first four weeks 1-3. The good part is we seem to be able to right the ship as the season goes on.

“We’ve hit these stumbling blocks before. Two years ago when we went up to St. Thomas More and got absolutely demolished and we were sitting at 2-3 and just got beat by 50 points, we found a way inside ourselves to right it and make a quarterfinal run,” Saltaformaggio said. “Last year after a heart-breaking, devastating loss to Riverside, we turn around and have a heart-breaking, devastating loss to Destrehan and we find a way to right the ship and win seven in a row and get beat by a good John Ehret team in the second round.”

Even if Saltaformaggio was able to pick up his first win over rival Destrehan since his arrival at Hahnville, he said there still is a lot of football left to play for the Tigers.

“It’s always about continuing to progress forward with the program – don’t make more out of this week than we need to make it. No matter what happens this week, we still have to win six games to get into the state playoffs. Hopefully we have two after Friday night, but we still need to win six.”

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.