Is there something different about this year’s Hahnville football team?
“I think the difference between this team going into the playoffs and the previous three teams going into the playoffs is we are able to play better defense. Hopefully, that holds up as we go through the tournament. I think our kids think they have a chance. They realize how good they are playing. That means all the difference in the world when the kids believe it,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said.
That difference allowed the Tigers to finally defeat rival Destrehan on their way to the District 7-5A title and the No. 10 seed in the playoffs. Hahnville will host No. 23 seed Denham Springs on Friday night.
The Tigers’ ambition, however, goes well beyond a district championship.
“Just listening to what people are saying, they think we could be among the handful of teams that could be playing in the Superdome. We just have to go out and do it,” Saltaformaggio said.
It all has to start with a win over a 6-4 Denham Springs team. Three of the Yellowjackets’ losses have come over the last four weeks against the likes of Zachary, Walker and Scotlandville.
“I look at them on film and they look like a good football team,” Saltaformaggio said. “The way I look at it is they are in the playoffs so they are a good football team and we are fortunate to get to play the first-round game at home.
“I can’t worry about those guys. It’s kind of been what we’ve said all along, we’ve got to worry about us. If we keep playing well and run the ball the way we’ve been running it and take our shots in the passing game that’s proved to be pretty effective for us down the stretch, we should be OK.”
Denham Springs is coached by Bill Conides. Conides is in his first year with the Yellowjackets after serving as coach at St. Stanislaus. One of Conides’ top pupils at St. Stanislaus is quarterback Myles Brennan, currently at LSU.
“They are a 50-50 ratio run-pass. You would think they would be a little bit more (toward the pass). They will give you a bunch of different formations, a bunch of different pre-snap shifts and motions but they really will run inside zone, they will run buck sweep and some backfield counter action at you, not so much traditional guard-tackle pull. They will also try to get you down the field vertically,” Saltaformaggio said of Denham Springs’ offensive attack.
The Yellowjackets have played both Cameron Feucht and Joshua Preston at quarterback. Feucht had thrown for almost 1,500 yards this season.
“No matter who plays quarterback for them, they run a system offense. They will have the same plays run by the different quarterbacks,” said Saltaformaggio.
Tyre Golmond is a dual threat for Denham Springs. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and has more than 300 yards in receptions.
“I think their big-threat guys are Tyre Golmond, Justin Anderson and D.J. Williams. Those are the guys they want to get the ball to,” Saltaformaggio said. “We have to be able to identify where those guys are and make sure we have those guys accounted for on every single down.
“The thing about Golmond and Anderson, they not only play in the backfield, they will split them out. They will run a lot of speed sweeps with them and they will run play-action off of the speed sweeps and they will throw a myriad of screens to both of them.”
Defensively, the Yellowjackets are likely to give the Tigers a 3-3 Stack look and a 4-2-5, according to Saltaformaggio.
“Kaleb Pipes looks like a really, really good football player for them. He plays defensive end or right outside linebacker depending on the scheme they are in. Nicholas Carlton is a down defensive lineman who looks like a real good football player,” said Saltaformaggio.
If Denham Springs follows the script of other Hahnville opponents this season, the Tigers are likely to see a lot of Yellowjackets crowding the line of scrimmage, according to Saltaformaggio.
“We will get eight and nine guys along the line of scrimmage,” the Hahnville coach predicted. “The good part about that is when we block it, it’s always a big play for us. It shocks me that people aren’t backing off a little bit and making us drive. Everybody seems to be following the same game plan and that’s to get eight and nine guys in the box but with the speed we have, if we crease it, it’s a touchdown. That’s why we have stats like seven rushes for 195 yards, 11 rushes for 150 yards.
“We’re averaging, in district, 10.1 yards per carry. It’s just crazy numbers that we have. I believe it’s because people think crowding the line of scrimmage against us, they will defend the run game but what all that is really happening is they are defending the down, but the very next down, we get a crease and it becomes an 80-yard run.”