Anthony “Pooka” Williams simply would not allow his fellow seniors and the rest of his Hahnville teammates to go down in history without a win over rival Destrehan.
“We had to keep fighting. Our offense came out and did what we had to do. We were the underdog in this game. Everybody expected us to lose,” Williams said moments after his team’s 20-13 victory Friday in Destrehan that gave Hahnville its first win over the Wildcats since 2012.
Like in his entire career, Williams did his part, and then some. He rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Williams also added a big catch for 45 yards and even had two touchdowns called back.
“He’s the best football player in the state of Louisiana; that’s the way I feel,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said of Williams.
“I saw him in the eighth grade and he was an incredible player. He is a super player. Hats off to them; he was a better man tonight than we were,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux.
The win was the first for Saltaformaggio in five tries against Destrehan.
“It was two great football teams with a lot of great players on the field and great coaches on both sides. It’s a long time coming,” said Saltaformaggio.
The result left the Hahnville coach almost speechless.
“I can’t describe it right now. I just want to be with my kids and celebrate,” Saltaformaggio said.
“It feels good. We haven’t beaten them in five years. We made a statement,” Hahnville quarterback Jha’Quan Jackson said.
Lost in the rivalry of the game was the fact the game was the District 7-5A opener. The result left both teams 2-2 over while Hahnville moved to 1-0 in league play and Destrehan fell to 0-1.
While Williams earned the spotlight on offense, the Hahnville defense also shined. Destrehan mounted drives on its first three possessions of the game but only had three points to show for it to set the tone for the entire night.
“Our defense was off the charts,” said Saltaformaggio.
“We watched a lot of film. We studied their plays. We knew their routes. We knew what they were trying to attack. We shut them down,” said Hahnville defensive back Lloyd Jones, who had a drive-killing interception in the end zone in the first half.
While the teams marched up and down the field in the first half, the defensive stops by Hahnville allowed the Tigers to take a 14-3 halftime lead.
The Tigers got the ball to start the second half and Destrehan finally came up with a stop of its own to force a three-and-out.
“Our kids kept playing hard,” Robicheaux said.
The Wildcats, however, were unable to take advantage and also was forced to punt the ball away.
Three plays later, the score was 20-3 after a 55-yard scamper by Williams.
“If the line came out here to do what they had to do, I will do what I have to do. That’s what happened,” Williams said of his scoring effort.
Destrehan countered with a 12-play drive but again had to settle for a 24-yard Phillip Stratton field goal to make it 20-6 with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter.
Williams appeared to score on a 45-yard run two plays later but the touchdown was called back because of a holding penalty, followed by an unsportsmanlike infraction on the Hahnville bench.
Destrehan quarterback J.R. Blood found his passing rhythm on the next possession, completing five passes in a 14-play drive that finally netted a touchdown when Blood scored on a 2-yard run to make it 20-13 with 7:36 remaining in the contest.
Blood finished 20 of 35 passing for 255 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. Destrehan running back John Emery rushed for 125 yards on 15 carries and added six catches for 42 additional yards.
Williams reversed field for what appeared to be an 18-yard touchdown but it was called back because of a penalty with 3:10 left in the game.
Thomas Rasco went in to attempt a 39-yard field goal on fourth-and-6 but after an illegal participation penalty, the Tigers elected to try and pick up the first down. Jackson was stopped short, giving Destrehan another shot.
Destrehan took possession with 1:13 left in the game. After a 12-yard completion by Blood, the junior quarterback spiked the ball to stop the clock for one more play. Blood scrambled before hitting C.B. Anderson for a short gain and the clock ran out on the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak against its rival.
Both teams drove the ball throughout most of the first half. The difference was Hahnville found the end zone and Destrehan didn’t, allowing the Tigers to take a 14-3 halftime lead.
Destrehan reached the Hahnville 30 on the game’s opening drive but came away with no points on an incomplete pass by Blood on fourth-and-6.
On Destrehan’s next possession, the Wildcats faced fourth-and-goal at the Hahnville 10 but this time settled on a 28-yard Stratton field goal.
Destrehan reached the Hahnville 22 on its third possession but came away with no points when Jones intercepted a Blood pass in the end zone.
“I was on his hip,” Jones said of the Destrehan receiver. “I knew the route already.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers found the end zone.
After getting Destrehan to turn the ball over on downs to open the game, Hahnville countered with a seven-play drive – all on the ground. Williams got the call six times, the final carry coming on a 6-yard run for a touchdown at the 5:50 mark of the first quarter. Thomas Rasco’s conversion made it 7-0.
After Destrehan connected with its field goal, the Tigers were on the march once more. Two plays into the drive, Jackson broke loose on a 64-yard gallop to give the Tigers a 14-3 lead with 1:46 left in the first quarter.
“My line was blocking. That’s all I can say. I work hard. Last week, I didn’t play a good game but I know coach has faith in us. I did what I had to do,” Jackson said of his touchdown run.
Each team was finally forced to punt late in the first half. Hahnville faced a fourth-and-3 from its own 31 when Tigers punter Dalton Melancon raced 7 yards for a first down.
The drive eventually ended on Jalen Smothers’ interception of a Jackson pass with eight seconds remaining before halftime.