- Feature Story
- Game Preview
- George Becnel
- September 27, 2017 - 9:15am
When in doubt, always turn to the manual.
“I have a page in my coaching manual that says you have to beat your rival for survival. We hadn’t beaten them but we have been close. Because of the respect we have for Destrehan’s program, those are the types of games that can jump-start your program,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said of his team’s 20-13 victory last Friday over rival Destrehan.
It was the first win in five tries as Hahnville coach for Saltaformaggio in one of the nation’s top prep football rivalries.
Hahnville running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams came up big in the biggest game of his career but it was the Tigers’ defense that set the early tone against Destrehan.
The Wildcats drove deep into Hahnville territory on their first three possessions of the game but came away with only a single field goal.
“It’s kind of the way the 3-3 Stack works. You kind of make them earn the yards between the 25s and when they get into the plus-25, plus-20 territory, you just start getting into your blitz game and man coverage and get some pressure on the quarterbacks and tackles for losses and it worked our perfectly for us,” said Saltaformaggio.
The Tigers’ defense also contained Destrehan’s top offensive weapons, including running back John Emery.
“That was our plan going into it. We kept Hunter LeBlanc in the middle of the field because Hunter is a very good tackler. We didn’t do a lot with our second-level defenders. We kind of let them sit at home and really just absorb his impact, so to speak. When he got to the second level of our defense, we had people there to make the tackle. We just didn’t want to give up the big play,” Saltaformaggio explained.
Offensively, Williams just did his thing. He rushed for 226 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. He also had two touchdowns called back.
“I think Anthony Williams is the best football player in the state of Louisiana,” said Saltaformaggio. “If you are just a fan of football and you don’t have a team to root for, it’s worth the seven dollars to come to Hahnville on Friday night just to see him play. Those kinds of players don’t come through high school where you get to see them play very often. He can do special, special things.”
There was another running back who quietly contributed to Hahnville’s win, according to Saltaformaggio.
“The unsung hero Friday night was our fullback, John Pearsall. He is only a sophomore but we were able to put him in the game and we were able to run power and toss because he was a grown man out there blocking,” the Hahnville coach said.
It all added up to a win for Hahnville.
“It’s our first one and I’ll take it. It could have been 2-0, I would have taken it,” Saltaformaggio said.
Now, the task is to be able to avoid a letdown as Hahnville prepares to host unbeaten Terrebonne on Friday night. Terrebonne (4-0) is coming off a 60-27 non-district thumping of Patterson.
“Right now, we want to go 1-0 this week. Terrebonne is coming in here 4-0. I don’t care who they played - all that is irrelevant to me. They are coming in here 4-0 telling their kids, ‘if we beat Hahnville, we are going to have a part of the district championship.’ That’s how I would approach it; ‘if we can upset either Hahnville or Destrehan, we will get a part of the district championship,’” Saltaformaggio said.
Terrebonne is a clone of Destrehan both offensively and defensively in terms of scheme.
“They will give you some three by one, tunnels and bubbles and try and throw a couple of deep balls vertically. They will give you a two-back gun look and try to run inside and outside zone. It’s very similar to what we saw last week but they don’t have (J.R.) Blood and they don’t have Emery and they don’t have (Quinton) Torbor. They do have kids who are putting up some impressive numbers,” Saltaformaggio said.
Terrebonne’s quarterback is Ja’khi Douglas and THS takes advantage of several running backs in the backfield.
“They have good hands at running back. Keshawn James, Chaz Ward and Trevon Johnson are all long kids who can run,” said Saltaformaggio.
Although Terrebonne may not have faced the level of early competition as Hahnville, it’s a team that can’t be taken lightly, according to Saltaformaggio.
“Anybody that can score 60 points in a football game obviously must be doing something right,” the Hahnville coach said. “They scored 60 points last week on Patterson. If that doesn’t get our attention, shame on us. That’s kind of my approach this week.”
The approach to Friday’s game had Saltaformaggio thinking of a sport besides football.
“I used to be at the race track a lot when I was a kid because I loved horse racing,” he said. “I remember hearing a jockey say, ‘you whip the horse when it’s in front. You don’t whip the horse when it’s 13 lengths back.’ If we are going to whip the horse, it’s got to be this week. We have to practice harder than we’ve ever practiced and continue to climb and build on the momentum of the game.”
Like with the offense, the Terrebonne defense is a mirror image of Destrehan in terms of scheme.
“Even defensively, they are a 50 team just like Destrehan. They are a clone schematically of Destrehan. If we can duplicate what we did last week, we should be OK,” Saltaformaggio said.
Top defensive linemen for Terrebonne include Tyler Nettleton and Jace Gatlin.
“Those guys on film stand out. They look like football players on film. They are always around the ball and they seem to be the guys that are making all the tackles. If a big play needs to be made, their numbers pop up,” said Saltaformaggio.
Another defensive standout, Saltaformaggio said, is linebacker Demarques Williams.
After the Destrehan game, since I have been at Hahnville, I think we’ve put together three, eight-game winning streaks. We are 24-0 after the Destrehan games. This is kind of the mark where we seem to get going a little bit.
They are very athletic. They are tall. I wish we could get some of those passing numbers in our offense a little bit.
You will get a team that is coming in here with a lot of momentum. If we were playing today and we won the toss, I would receive because you have to hit them in the gut early. We have dominated them since I’ve been here and you want to make them think, ‘here we go again.’ The last two years they came into the district 4-0 and ended up 4-6. So, we don’t want to be their first district win in two years.
If four goals and aspirations are more than just beating Detrehan, we have to keep getting better.
Terrebonne is a spread team.
They really are a clone of what Destrehan is. They will give you some three by one, tunnels and bubbles and try and throw a couple of deep balls vertically. They will give you a two-back gun look and try to run inside and outside zone. It’s very similar to what we saw last week but they don’t have Blood and they don’t have Emery and they don’t have Tolbert. They do have kids who are putting up some impressive numbers.
Even defensively, they are a 50 team just like Destrehan. They are a clone schematically of Destrehan. If we can duplicate what we did last week, we should be OK.
Defensive linemen Tyler Nettleton and Jace Gatlin.
Those guys on film stand out. They look like football players on film. They are always around the ball and they seem to be the guys that are making all the tackles. If a big play needs to be made, their numbers pop up.
OLB Demarcus Williams
“They are the same guys we played last year so we know how good they are,” Saltaformaggio said.
Even with the big win over rival Destrehan, Hahnville continues to struggle throwing the football. The team only had one pass completion – a 45-yard toss to Williams.
So, the passing game remains a work in progress moving forward.
“We’ve got to continue to run the football because we still are struggling in the passing game,” Saltaformaggio said. “There’s a lot of different reasons for it. Jha’Quan (Jackson) has just become very, very comfortable finding Anthony Williams. We really haven’t gotten the other (receivers) open. I think once another guy catches a ball, I think our passing game will be infinitely better. We’ve been able to get Michael Gray involved with the speed sweep game. He is a weapon we continue to use.”