With Nick Saltaformaggio suspended for the first four games of the season, the Hahnville coach had to watch game tape on Saturday to find out how his Tigers fared in their season-opener last Friday against West Jefferson.
“It was terrible,” Saltaformaggio said of not being at Hahnville’s game last Friday. “It’s like you get a phone call that a loved one is the emergency room going into surgery and when you get to the hospital, they are in surgery and you are not there and no one is telling you anything. The loved one is in the hands of someone else and you don’t know what’s going on. That’s what Friday night was like.”
The circumstances, however, allowed the Hahnville coach to learn something about himself and his team.
“On the plus side, for a guy like me that micromanages everything, it allowed me to step back, take a breath, and realize I really have an excellent coaching staff that can handle this situation. I have a group of really resilient football players, who handled it very well, also,” Saltaformaggo said.
What Saltaformaggio saw on film was a team similar to the one he witnessed a year ago. With Jha’quan Jackson back at quarterback, the Tigers rushed for 257 yards in a 45-0 domination of West Jefferson.
“We still have a lot of ways to go with that. We will have to throw the ball a little bit. We can’t keep getting caught in the same routine we were in last year where we were 90 percent run every night. I think Jha’quan is a little more comfortable back there right now,” Saltaformaggio said.
While the Tigers rushed for a lot of years and scored a bunch of points, it was the Hahnville defense that set the tone for the game.
“I don’t think anybody was shocked we won the game. I think most people thought we would win the game, but the way we won it, I think surprised everybody. This is the best defensive football group I’ve had since I’ve been at Hahnville. We have big kids up front that tackle well. Our second-level defenders run and (linebacker) John Pearsall is a throwback-type player. In the secondary, we have gifts at corner and free safety,” said Saltaformaggio said.
Hahnville (1-0) hosts John Ehret (0-1) on Friday – a team that has been a nemesis of late for the Tigers, who lost to the Patriots 46-41 a year ago.
“Three years ago, we played them in a spring game and they kind of beat us up physically. Two years ago, in the state playoffs, they knock us out. We kind of mismanaged the game offensively at the end and got beat in the playoffs. That game last year, it didn’t really come back to haunt us because we wound up getting to the state championship game, but losing that game knocked us out of a top-four seed and put is all the way down to No. 10, and as a result, we had to travel all the way to Ruston in Round 2,” said Saltaformaggio.
The Tigers, Saltaformaggio said, face a motived Ehret team. The Patriots opened the season with a 44-20 loss at powerhouse West Monroe. Next week, Ehret takes on Destrehan, so a loss to Hahnville could mean a 0-3 start for the Patriots.
“We have to find a way to go out and get a win against these guys. They will be well-prepared. Marcus (Scott) is an excellent coach,” the Hahnville coach said.
Leading the Ehret offense is senior quarterback Travis Mumphrey.
“I think this is his eighth year of playing high school,” joked Saltaformaggio. “I think that’s what happens when you have that kind of skill. Those great players always seem to stay around forever but that’s because they are doing great things every week and you are reading about them in the paper.”
Mumphrey has a lot of options in the passing game with a receiving corps that consists of Jordan Pickney, Deron Coleman, Ja’Ron Glenn, plus tight end Jacolby Windman.
Damond Leonard is typical of Ehret running backs, according to Saltaformaggio.
“He’s just another one of those Ehret backs. He’s shifty and he has great explosiveness. They present a problem because he is running behind behemoths so he’s hard to find. It’s like trying to find a bird flying through the sequoias. It’s hard to locate them,” the Hahnville coach said.
There may be even more talent on the defensive side for the Patriots.
“They are physical and run well and they have big kids. They have a LSU commit at linebacker (Donte Starks) and they have (Earl) Barquet at defensive end. They are going to pose a problem for us. We are not going to score 45 points this week. If we do, the rest of the state better watch out. I don’t think we will get 45 this week. I think it will be a low-scoring kind of a fistfight kind of game and the tougher team is going to win it,” Saltaformaggio said.
The Patriots are based out of a 50 defense.
“They are an odd-front team and they will get into a little of a 3-3 Stack. Where they are different from last year is in the secondary. They are not so much press-man football. They will be a little more zone concept behind that big front and make you earn your yards,” Saltaformaggio said.
The Hahnville coach said he expects a physical game Friday night.
“We just have to out-tough them. I really believe that. Where we do have an advantage, I think, is our kicking game. Our kicking game has really come a long way. At the end of the night, we just have to out-tough them. The toughest team will win Friday night.”