Nick Saltaformaggio had an inkling Hahnville’s Class 5A second-round playoff game at Ruston on Friday night would come down to the fourth quarter – he just didn’t expect it to come down to the final seconds.
The Tigers were clinging to a 23-21 lead after a 24-yard Thomas Rasco field goal and just trying to hold on.
Ruston’s defense forced a pair of Hahnville punts late in the game from deep in Tigers’ territory in the closing moments. The first punt came from the Hahnville end zone and the other from the Tigers’ 15. Both times, Hahnville punter Dalton Melancon faced a stiff wind.
“Dalton kept it low and made the kid have to fair catch it and didn’t allow for a return,” Saltaformaggio said of the second punt.
Trying to get in field goal range, Ruston completed a short pass near the sideline, with Hahnville’s Logan Robert making the stop inbound to keep the clock running, forcing the Bearcats to down the ball to stop the clock.
“Had that kid gotten out of bounds with nine seconds to go, it would have given them another down to get a little closer,” Saltaformaggio said.
Instead, the Bearcats were forced to try a 55-yard field goal that was off the mark, allowing Hahnville to take the two-point victory.
The win finally allows the Tigers to host a quarterfinal playoff game. Hahnville, the No. 10 seed, will take on No. 2 seed Covington next Friday. Covington advanced with a 35-28 win over Ouachita Parish, the No. 15 seed.
“I think it will be a tremendous atmosphere. I know our kids are excited,” Saltaformaggio said of hosting the quarterfinal matchup.
Anthony “Pooka” Williams took his show on the road and showed folks in Ruston what fans in south Louisiana have experienced all season.
The Hahnville running back ran for 302 of his team’s 350 yards of total offense on 42 carries and scored all three of the Tigers’ touchdowns.
“We needed it. We didn’t get any offense from anybody else. He really carried us,” Saltaformaggio said.
Hahnville quarterback Jha’Quan Jackson managed to rush for 32 yards on 14 attempts. He was 0 of 4 passing in the game.
Williams produced the first points of the game on a 31-yard run to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead at the 5:45 mark of the opening quarter.
Touchdown passes by Ruston quarterback Eric Outley of 39 yards to Reggie Williford and 4 yards to Tahjmalik Samuel gave the Bearcats a 14-6 lead after one quarter.
Hahnville rallied to 14-13 at halftime on a 2-yard run by Williams with 40 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“We told the guys we were right where we thought we would be. We missed an extra point to trail 14-13 at halftime but we were getting the second-half kickoff,” Saltaformaggio said.
The Tigers moved the ball with their opening possession of the third quarter before the drive eventually stalled.
Hahnville managed to gain the lead at 20-14 on a 32-yard run by Williams at the 5:38 mark of the third quarter.
Ruston edged back on top 21-20 with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter on a 40-yard pass from Outley to Donald Johnson.
Rasco kicked what proved to be the game-winning field goal from 24-yards out against a still wind early in the fourth quarter.
“It was clutch,” Saltaformaggio said of Rasco’s kick. “We had had a missed extra point, had a field goal blocked and we had a field goal missed. He just shook it off and drilled it.”