Hahnville amassed 338 yards of total offense while holding Walker to 141, including only 56 yards on 20 rushing attempts, as the Tigers won 35-9 on the road Friday night in the opening round of the Class 5A football playoffs.
“We’ve been playing really good defensively for a while now,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said. “I think our kids are just getting better and better on that side of the ball. They have great confidence and we have great game plans with our coaches.”
Next Friday, Hahnville, the No. 22 seed, will host Zachary, the No. 6 seed, which defeated the Tigers a year ago for the state title.
“They have kind of been a thorn in our side the last couple of years,” Saltaformaggio said of Zachary. “They knocked us out in the quarterfinals, and obviously, they beat us in the state championship game. They are coming to Hahnville this time and that will mean a lot to our kids.”
An early interception set up Hahnville’s first score – a 13-yard pass from Andrew Robison to Jha’quan Jackson for a 7-0 Tigers lead only less than four minutes into the game.
“When we were able to come out right off the bat and get an interception and drive right down the field and score to go up 7-0, our kids were pretty confident because they took their best shot on first down – a deep ball to their best player – and we were able to get the turnover,” said Saltaformaggio.
“When you are playing with the confidence we are playing with, it runs itself through the entire football team,” Saltaformaggio added. “When you add what Andrew Robison can do for us, which is make the very difficult throws, which makes people back off the line of scrimmage. The result of that is we are able to run the ball.”
Robison was 9 of 15 passing for 155 yards and three touchdowns while Brandon Comardelle rushed for 146 yards and touchdown on 23 carries. The Tigers rushed the ball 40 times for 183 yards in the game.
“That’s what we have to be able to do. When you are in the round of 16, you have to be able to run the ball and you have to be able to out-tough your opponent at times in the game. We were able to do that against a quality football team,” said Saltaformaggio.
The Tigers (6-5) also got Jackson involved, who finished with five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.
“He had his best night of the year,” Saltaformaggio said of Jackson. “I guess it keeps going back to what might have been had this LHSAA fiasco not occurred and where our seeding might be and what our record might be now. But the fact of the matter is we are 1-0. I told the kids there are 16 other teams that are 1-0 and everybody else is picking their gear up.”
The Wildcats (8-3) cut into Hahnville’s lead on a 23-yard Bradley Cain field goal to make it 7-3 at the 3:11 mark of the first quarter.
Robison and Jackson hooked up on a 49-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-3 with 30 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
A Tigers punt from their own 1-yard line gave Walker the ball inside the Hahnville 40. The Wildcats took advantage with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ethan McMasters to Brian Thomas to make it 14-9 in the second quarter.
Hahnville came up with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Robison to Jerry Spencer with 33 seconds left before halftime to give the Tigers a 21-9 edge at the break.
“Coming off the field, even though we had given up a touchdown, we felt pretty confident about the way were playing defense,” said Saltaformaggio.
The Tigers added a pair of touchdown runs in the third quarter – one by Comardelle of 44 yards and another by Robison from a year out – to account for the 35-9 final.
Now, the Tigers get a chance to take on the team that kept them from winning a state title a year ago.
“We are looking forward to it. I think it will be the most intriguing game in 5A football next week just because I think we are a different team now and people know we are a different team than we were at the midway point of the season – and they are Zachary. We are ready to go and see where we are,” Saltaformaggio said.