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Hahnville Tigers run out of options in switching offensive styles

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  • George Becnel
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  • August 26, 2015 - 10:18pm

File photosSecond-year Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio has switched the Tigers' offense from a double-slot option attack to more of a pro-style set in 2015.

Hahnville’s offense appears to be out of options for the 2015 football season.

“I’m a big believer in the double-shot option game but it didn’t fit what we were doing,” second-year Tigers coach Nick Saltaformaggio said. “From a personnel standpoint, we didn’t have the dynamic, kind of fast-twitch muscle quarterback and we didn’t have the tall, fast fullback we need to run it.

“What we do have is a lot of talented kids. We have big linemen that can push people around a little bit.”

So, the Tigers, 9-4 and a Class 5A quarterfinalist in Saltaformaggio’s first season, will try to push people around in 2015 with more of a pro-style offense. The offense may better suit returning quarterback Mike Neal. Now a senior, Neal has yet to play a full season of football after suffering an injury a year ago that cost him about half the season.

“Mike is getting better. He’s had his moments,” Saltaformaggio said. “He still hasn’t had a full football season to play. Hopefully, we can get him through and injury-free. The quarterback doesn’t get beat up as much running this pro-style offense as he would running the option. He throws the ball well. I think more than anybody, he misses (Brandon) Singleton and (Ricky) Preston. They were explosive, deep-ball threats.”

Singleton has taken that explosiveness to Cal-Berkley and Preston to Tulane.

As a result, Neal will have different types of pass catches to get the ball to this season.

“We have two excellent tight ends in (Cade) Miguez and (Dylan) Crockett,” Saltaformaggio said. “We have some guys on the outside that bring different skill sets with (Devonte) Cravin and Chandler Fremen.”

A number of players are likely to get carries for Hahnvlle, led by Drew Dunn.

“Drew Dunn is our fullback but more of a guy who gives us tough, inside runs. He moves the pile,” said Saltaformaggio.

“Tailback is a three-headed monster with Devonte Clark, who is more of a pounding guy; Norquell Flowers, who has a little bit of wiggle to him; and a dynamic player in Anthony Williams. He’s as good a football player as I’ve been around,” the Hahnville coach continued.

Staying healthy, Saltaformaggio said, will be a key to the running game in 2015.

“We have four guys that all run the ball very, very well and they all run it differently. If we can keep those four guys healthy, then I think we will be OK,” he said.

The Tigers feature an experienced offensive line.

“Our best guy is Drew Melancon, he plays right tackle for us. We have four guys who started for us returning. Our center is Drew Jones, who was a guard last year. Torin Borne, who’s a sophomore, started as a freshman. Carmichael Critton started for us last year but has been hurt (with a hamstring injury). Behind him we have Keil Bates and Lee Vial and Tyler Frickey. All those guys will play a lot of football for us this year,” Saltaformaggio said.

The defense is the strength of the 2015 Tigers.

“We have a lot of fast, angry kids. We’re not the most fundamentally sound technique defense – we’ll be there – but from an athletic standpoint and from aggression and willingness to learn, they are very good,” Saltaformaggio said.

The Tigers have a lot of experience along the defense line in the form of Stephen Cloud, Travon Honor and Jacob Plache. Junior Devin Williams, Saltaformaggio said, has really stepped up his game.

Hahnville lost linebacker Dwaine Thomas to Texas A&M but still returns talent at the position.

“In my humble estimation, we have the best linebacker in the district in Peyton Robert. Peyton was a great player for us last year and he will be an even better player for us this year,” said Saltaformaggio.

Other linebackers include talented, but inexperienced Laron Gauthier and Jamar Davis.

Hahnville’s secondary returns intact except for the loss of Jai Knight, who is now at Arkansas State. Hunter LeBlanc, a freshman last year, takes over for Knight at free safety.

“He’s a tall, rangy kid. He’s smart and a ferocious hitter,” Saltaformaggio said of LeBlanc.

Matt Boyer is back to handle the kicking chores and Aaron Bourgeois is the Hahnville punter.

Hahnville opens the regular season at Woodlawn of Baton Rouge before hosting a pair of teams used to deep playoff runs in Patterson and Riverside Academy.

A key stretch comes the following two weeks. After opening District 7-5A play against rival Destrehan, the Tigers face powerful St. Thomas More.

“People will look at Weeks 4 and 5 where we have Destrehan, who has beaten me personally twice, and is a state finalist. Win or lose that game, we have to go on the road to St. Thomas More,” Saltaformaggio said.

The rest of the district will be no cakewake, according to Saltaformaggio.

“In this district, everybody has good players. You look at a school like Destrehan that has the most good players, but everybody has good players. You can’t take a weekend off,” the Hahnville coach said.

Goals, as always, are lofty at Hahnville.

“People point to district championships. In this day and age – don’t get me wrong, I’d love to say we are district champion – with the wildcards and power points. Goal No. 1 is to get in the playoffs, goal No. 2 is to be a district champion and Goal No. 3 is to win the state championship,” Saltaformaggio 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.