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Destrehan-Hahnville rivalry game ‘high school football at its finest’

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  • George Becnel
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  • September 20, 2017 - 1:06pm

File photosStephen Robicheaux and his Destrehan Wildcats have won five-straight games over the rival Hahnville Tigers, including a 24-12 playoff victory in 2014.

Maybe because he’s been around it for quite some time, but Stephen Robicheaux seems to be able to put the Destrehan-Hahnville game in its most succinct terms.

“It’s a great rivalry – probably one of the best in the state. The reason for that is because you have two programs with a lot of tradition and a lot of success. It’s high school football at its finest. It’s a great crowd and it’s what it is supposed to be about,” the Destrehan coach said.

The annual event, recognized as part of the Great American Rivalry Series, had been played as the regular-season finale for awhile. Lately, it has been the District 7-5A opener.

One thing that is different about his year’s event is that the Wildcats enter the contest one game removed from having lost a regular season game on the field for the first time since the 2012 season. Destrehan followed up a loss to St. Charles Catholic with a 44-25 victory last week over John Ehret.

The Wildcats (2-1) fell behind early against the Patriots before rallying for the win.

“We scratched our head early again. We were not quite getting it done. I thought our offensive staff did a tremendous job of settling our kids down and John (Emery) and J.R. (Blood) and the guys did a great job and we were fortunate to get it to a one-point lead at half and the way our secondary and defense played the second half, and offensively, also, it was just a testament to our coaches game planning. We told the kids to just hang on, that we were going to get their best and that our conditioning would take over toward the end and that pretty much happened,” Robicheaux said.

After being contained by St. Charles, Emery responded by rushing for 166 of the Wildcats’ 192 yards on the ground against Ehret.

“John ran the ball real well. Our offensive line did a tremendous job. They are a unit that is huge and athletic. Our big concern was whether we could move them at all. Our offensive line, being a bit undersized, went out there and gave John some running room,” said Robicheaux.

Destrehan, ranked No. 10 in the Class 5A poll after dropping out for a week following the SCC loss, has dominated the series against Hahnville (1-2) in recent years. The Wildcats are riding a five-game winning streak, including last year’s encounter that lived up to the hype as one of the nation’s top rivalries.

The Wildcats lost senior quarterback Kohen Granier to an injury at the end of the first half. Blood, then a sophomore, was pressed into action for Destrehan. He guided a late drive to set up a 27-yard Brady Quinn field goal with eight seconds left in the game to give the Wildcats a 31-28 triumph.

“It was a mixed deal of two halves, Robicheaux recalled. “We kind of had it going and they came roaring, which good programs do. At the very end, we had to get a drive going to kick a field goal and stop them at the end of the game to seal the victory. It was a classic Destrehan-Hahnville matchup. We know they have great athletes on their side of the field and we have pretty good athletes on our side of the field and you kind of toss the coin to see who is playing better. We were very fortunate to come out on top.”

After years of battles, Friday night’s encounter in Destrehan may finally be the final meeting between Destrehan and Anthony “Pooka” Williams, Hahnville’s all-everything athlete.

“It seems like ‘Pooka’ has been there for a long time. He’s as advertised. He’s a special player. He runs angry. He’s very fast. He’s one of the top players I’ve ever had to try and defend as a head coach because he can just do so much. He can get it out of the backfield; he can go catch it as a receiver – just a tremendous, tremendous effort on his part as far as making things happen,” Robicheaux said.

The Tigers, Robicheaux said, are more than just Williams on offense.

“Jha’Quan is a heck of an athlete at quarterback. Jamel Byrd, the wideout, is a 6-2 kid, who can go get it. I really like Michael Gray. He can really fly. Of course, they have a Mississippi State commitment on the offensive line in Larry Dixon. They have Torin Borne up there and Gabe Medina,” Robicheaux pointed out.

The Tigers, however, have struggled to get the ball to receivers Byrd and Gray. Jackson is 6 of 16 passing for 38 yards through three games. Drew Naquin, a ninth grader, was 2 of 2 for 25 yards in limited action in Hahnville’s 21-6 loss to Brother Martin last week.

“I think they will get that figured out. I know they will work on it. They have a lot of special guys on offense. I imagine we will see ‘Pooka’ back there a lot with what (Narquez) Jones did to us for St. Charles,” said Robicheaux.

Jones rushed for 178 yards on 33 carries – many coming from direct snaps out of the wildcat formation – in St. Charles’ 24-8 Week 2 win over Destrehan in which the Comets were playing their first game without injured quarterback Lloyd Nash.

Defensively, the Tigers have numerous players who can play havoc with an opposing offense, according to Robicheaux.

“They go from a four-man package and a three-man package and the guy that stands out among the d-linemen is Adonis Friloux. He’s a big sophomore that plays with his hands and is extremely active. Lyncoy Reynaud is another guy that does a tremendous job. He’s real active. They have big linebackers in Conor Fenerty and Amontae’ Jernigan. The guys that are constantly making plays are Robert Logan and the two corners, Lloyd Jones and Mason Khalil Mason. It seems like Hunter LeBlanc has been there forever at free safety,” Robicheaux said.

Containing Williams and the Tigers’ running, coupled with a solid ground game like Destrehan had a week ago against Ehret, Robicheaux said, could go a long way toward adding another Wildcat win to the series ledger.

“We just have to do the things we do well and coach our guys up and have them ready to try and stop a very potent offense. Hopefully, offensively we can play ball control and keep the ball moving. The key is you have to get John Emery involved. Hopefully, he can have a game like he had Friday night (against Ehret) because he was pretty special Friday night,” the Destrehan coach said.

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.