- Feature Story
- Game Recap
- Eric Richey
- December 01, 2017 - 11:14pm
The legend of "Pooka" just grew exponentially.
As if three straight 300+ rushing yard playoff performances hadn't already solidified Hahnville's Anthony "Pooka" Williams as the most dynamic player in the state, his heroics in the 5A State Semifinals which included 212 rushing yards, three more touchdowns (including a 99-yard kickoff return), and a walk-off game-winning two-point conversion led Hahnville into the 5A State Championship Game with a 43-42 overtime win at Acadiana.
"All I was thinking about was getting the win, and going to the State Championship, and I got into the end zone," said Williams. "We gave everybody wanted they wanted. They were doubting us. We had to come out here and put on a show."
And what a show it was.
After falling behind quickly 14-0, Hahnville got on the board for the first time on a 3-yard touchdown run by Williams with 9:08 in the second quarter. Acadiana sandwiched touchdowns around another 3-yard Williams touchdown run to take a 28-14 lead at the half.
Williams returned the opening kick of the second half 99 yards for a momentum turning touchdown and a tone-setter for a wild finish.
After the Rams answered with another short touchdown run following a long pass play, the Tigers special teams would strike again. Kicking it short and away from Williams, Hahnville's Michael Gray fielded the ensuing kick and started to run toward the visiting sideline then quickly cut back, got a huge block from John Pearsall and returned it the distance for another quick Tigers touchdown cutting the lead to 35-28 with 8:25 left in the third quarter.
At that point the Hahnville defense showed a noticeable turnaround. With solid play up front, linebackers like Pearsall, Colby Ambler, and Dylan DeJean began making bone-jarring tackles.
After the Rams were forced to punt, Hahnville kept up with the offensive fireworks. A long Williams run put the ball inside the Acadiana 10-yard line, and moments later quarterback Ja'quan Jackson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Thomas Rasco added the extra point and the game was tied at 35 with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
The next serious scoring opportunity came from Acadiana with 1:25 left in the fourth quarter when after completing a 4th-and-three from midfield the Rams missed on a 38-yard field goal attempt. Hahnville couldn't score and the game went to overtime tied at 35.
Hahnville won the overtime toss and elected to go on defense first. The Rams scored three plays into the extra frame on a misdirection keeper by quarterback Jaylon Borel. Noah Anderson made the extra point and the Rams led 42-35.
On Hahnville's first play of overtime Williams took a handoff around the left end for a 10-yard touchdown. There was little hesitation from the Hahnville coaching staff, the Tigers were going for the win and lined up for a two-point conversion before Acadiana quickly called a timeout.
"We came here to win," said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio. "We had faked a punt, we had stolen a possession with a kick, what the heck?"
In a season full of jaw-dropping plays from Williams, what happened next is the stuff legends are made of.
Williams took the pitch and began running to his left. With heavy pursuit from Acadiana several yards deep in the backfield, Williams abruptly twirled into a 360-degree spin changing directions, he quickly paused as if he was going to pass (which he did twice during the game) then exploded upfield racing completely past one would-be tackler and crashing into another just as he crossed the plane of the end zone for the game-winning two-point conversion.
"Once I re-directed, I just put my head down just to get in the end zone," said Williams. "I seen the hole and I just hit the hole fast and put my head down."
"He's the greatest high school football player (in the state), he may be the greatest PLAYER in the state not in the NFL," said Saltaformaggio.
"We got the best player in the state, Pooka," said Hahnville safety Logan Robert. "I knew they were giving it to him and I knew we were going to score, I knew it."
The win was the first by a visiting team at Acadiana's stadium in 26 playoff tries during the Ted Davidson era, six of those came in semifinal games.
"I won a State Championship four years ago and this is the greatest victory of my life. So what does that tell you?" said Saltaformaggio.
The win was Hahnville's 11th straight and improves their record to 12-2 and puts the Tigers into the 5A State Championship game for the first time since they won it last in 2003. No.10 seed Hahnville will square off with No.4 seed Zachary (who defeated No.1 seed West Monroe 29-27) at 7:00 p.m. Saturday December 9th at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"It's my first time going to the Superdome, and I'm going to make the best of it," said Jackson. "We are Hahnville. We're going to play as a team, we're going to work as a team, and we're going to win as a team."
As for Hahnville's second-half defensive turnaround?
"Our kids never quit, we talked about playing hard and physical for four quarters," said Hahnville defensive coordinator Chris Stroud. "We made a lot of mistakes that we've got to correct next week, but our kids played their tails off."