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Life without ‘Pooka’ looms larger after sanctions against Hahnville

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  • Coaches
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  • By:
  • George Becnel
  • Posted:
  • August 24, 2018 - 4:14pm

File photosLife after Anthony 'Pooka' Williams looms larger after the suspension of coach Nick Saltaformaggio and the ineligibility of quarterback Andrew Robison.


To many outside observers, the overriding theme for the 2018 Hahnville team is what will life be like for the Tigers after a 12-3 season, a trip to the Class 5A finals, and the departure of all-everything running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams.

“I think what people fail to realize is how far this program has progressed over the last four years,” fifth-year coach Nick Saltaformaggio said. “When ‘Pooka’ graduated, a lot of people just assumed ‘they will go back to being mediocre.’ The fact of the matter is we were 40-13 over the last four years and we’ve had quarterfinal, quarterfinal and final run in three of the four years. We got beat in the second round two years ago. Now the program is to the point where we will be one of those guys year in and year out.

“When you get to Thanksgiving, anything can happen. I will be very upset if we are not playing for Thanksgiving. We absolutely should be playing on Thanksgiving. That’s where we want to be, and I think that’s where the program is now.”

Williams, now a Kansas Jayhawk, accounted for 3,000 all-purpose yards a year ago. Still, the cupboard is hardly bare in the backfield with Darryle Evans, Brandon Comardelle and Jace Myers returning.

“It won’t be one guy with 3,000 yards (of total offense). It might be five guys with 3,000 yards. Darryle Evans has the ability to be a 1,000-yard rusher,” said Saltaformaggio.

While the Tigers relied almost exclusively on the running game a year ago, Hahnville was expected to take to the air in 2018.

That was because of the arrival of Andrew Robison, the highly-touted senior transfer from Vandebilt Catholic as the team’s new starter.

The arrival of Robison allowed the Tigers to move last year’s starter, Jha’quan Jackson, to his natural position as a receiver. Although Jackson threw very little, he did account for 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns a year ago.

Those plans have been dramatically altered after a ruling was handed down against Hahnville on Thursday by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. Among the sanctions is a four-game suspension for Saltaformaggio and Robison being ineligible for the entire 2018 season.

Joining Jackson at receiver for the Tigers are Jerry Spencer and Norvel Revader. Jonathan Hill is in the six. He was having a good camp until having to have four wisdom teeth removed.

In today’s football with so many spread offenses, a lot of teams don’t have a tight end. The Tigers have two.

The duo consists of Noah Zeringue and Noah Chaisson.

“We have guys that can catch the ball and our backfield, all those guys have very good hands,” Saltaformaggio said of Hahnville’s passing game.

The offensive line, Saltaformaggio said, was a work in progress going into the season.

Junior center J’cobe Scott, senior right guard D’Quinn Butler and Gabe Medina are returning starts. Medina moved to left tackle after starting at center a year ago.

One of the new starters is left guard Brant Griffin.

“Brant is a real cerebral kid. He’s about 230 pounds on a 5-foot-10 body,” said Saltaformaggio. “He’s a football player. He’s a high school ‘grunt.’”

The other newcomer is Reginald Pierre at right tackle.

“We have a sophomore in Reginald Pierre, who is massive human being. He’s about 6-6, 330. Reginald Pierre is going to be a special talent. He just has to learn how to do it. He’s only 14. He will have to learn to do it on the fly.”

The Hahnville defense, Saltaformaggio said, may be the best the Tigers have had during his tenure as coach.

“We have special players at every level,” Saltaformaggio noted.

One of those “special players” is nose guard Adonis Friloux.

“Before the end of the season, he will be the one many colleges are talking about. He’s already has a couple of offers as a junior. He’s a dominant player,” Saltaformaggio said of Friloux.

Jalen Singleton, who also has been getting some college offers, is another returning starter to the defensive line.

A new starter is Logan Brimmer.

“He’s a wrestler and he’s got a bit of a mean streak in him,” Saltaformaggio said.

The linebackers include Amontae Jernigan, Corey Lebranch and John Pearsall.

“He’s probably the meanest of the bunch,” Saltaformaggio said of Pearsall. “He started for us at fullback last year.”

If there is a little “work in progress,” on defense, it’s in the secondary.

“We feel like we have good players there in Rafeal Joseph and Chance Tregle. They are battling for what we call our ‘bandit’ position,” Saltaformaggio said.

Robert Jackson, who played as an invert (hybrid linebacker-defensive back) is now at free safety.

The cornerbacks consist of Alijah Hamilton and Syre Lewis.

Robison was in line to be the team’s punter.That chore likely will go to Devyn Ortolano.

The field goal kicker is Ethan Chacon.

“He eventually is going to be a pretty good kicker but right now he is inconsistent,” Saltaformaggio said.

The Tigers, Saltaformaggio said, have the ingredients for another successful season.

“If you are good up front on offense and you are good up front on defense and you have a quality quarterback, that allows you to play a long time – and that’s what we have.”

Editor’s note: Saltaformaggio was interviewed for this previous prior to the announcement of sanctions by the LHSAA against Hahnville.

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.