Two wins in a row at the right time of year can do wonders for the morale of a football team.
“We have a chance, believe it or not – we looked at the power ratings for the first time this year – we are sitting at 20. So, we have a chance to get a home playoff game if we can finish this thing like we’ve played the last two weeks,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said.
After a 1-4 start, Hahnville has won its last two games with triumphs of 33-7 on Pearl River and 41-7 over Thibodaux to reach 3-4 on the season, including 1-2 in District 7-5A play.
The turnaround has come with a renewed emphasis on the Tigers’ running game.
“We are going to line up and run the ball downhill,” Saltaformaggio said. “That’s just what we’ve done.
“It was the single biggest mistake I made going into this year that won’t be made again. I lost our identity. We got enamored with the passing game over the summer and we got away from what we do and do well, and that’s get big linemen, get a hat on a hat and getting our running backs in a crease and letting them go.”
Hahnville has topped 300 yards rushing in each of the past two weeks. Brandon Comardelle has paced the Tigers, topping 200 yards in each of the last two outings.
In the past few weeks, Saltaformaggio noted how the Tigers and their opponents had been mirror images, either through scheme or personnel.
At 2-5 overall, and 1-3 in district play, East St. John, Hahnville’s Friday night opponent in Boutte, mirrors the Tigers in another regard.
“You look at East St. John and they are not true to the statement that your record says what you are,” Saltaformaggio said. “They are way better than a 2-5 football team. If you look at games they’ve played and we’ve played, we lost a close one to Destrehan. They lost an extremely close game to Destrehan. Both of us were kind of handled by Terrebonne. They played a tough pre-district schedule with McDonogh 35 and we have a comparable score with West Jefferson. I think we are very similar in that respect.”
The contrast, Saltaformaggio said, comes from the passing game.
“Where we are tremendously different is their passing game is very, very effective,” the Hahnville coach said. “Their quarterback, Sean Shelby, is a good player. The player that was playing quarterback last year, Dasmain Crosby, is at a more natural spot for him. Actually, he’s doing what we thought Jha’quan (Jackson) would do for us. Their receivers are good. They have an excellent tight end, Hoxie Brown.
“They will rely a little bit more on throwing the ball, I would think. That’s if we can defend the run game. That’s not to slight their running backs. Their running backs are pretty good players.”
The East St. John running backs include Pershing Toney and Calvin Gardner.
Defensively, the Wildcats are more disciplined than they have been in the past, according to Saltaformaggio.
“For the first time since I’ve coached against them, they are going to be where they are supposed to be. They are a 4-2-5 football team. I’m really impressed with fact they are very schematic. They adjust well to formation and motion. They tackle very well. While they may not have the big dominant lineman they’ve had, as a whole 11, they are a better defensive football team than they’ve been in the past,” the Hahnville coach said.
Hahnville’s strength on defense may in the secondary with the likes of Jarius Monroe and Antonio Sanders, but their pass coverage skills may not be tested much by the Tigers.
“The thing about guys that have really great defensive backs is we don’t throw the football,” Saltaformaggio laughed. “If we make him (Monroe) come down and tackle people, I know he’s capable of doing that, because he’s an exceptionally good football player.
“They are good tacklers (in the secondary). Those are the guys that stop you from getting those big, 30-, 40-, and 50-yard runs. For us Friday night, it will be about staying in front of the chains and not turn the ball over. We’re probably not going to get those big chunk runs like we did the last couple of weeks.”
The kicking game between the two teams is likely a push.
“Usually where we have an advantage over them is our kicking game but we don’t have that. I think it will come down to tackling, eliminate big plays and avoid turnovers. The team that does that is probably the team that wins,” Saltaformaggio said.