Hahnville defeated East St. John 21-0 a year ago as the teams shared the District 7-5A title.
The winner of Friday night’s game at Joe Keller Stadium in Reserve will take a step toward potentially being a district champion again as both teams enter the encounter 1-0 in league play.
“It’s always a dog fight when it’s Hahnville and East St. John. We’ve been playing for a long time so you expect each other’s best when the Friday night lights come on between those two teams,” Hahnville coach Daniel Luquet said.
In the game of power points, winning district titles has lost its luster for some coaches, but Luquet said he doesn’t see it that way.
“We still stress the district championship. If you are in a district that appoints a champion, we want to be a champion,” the Hahnville coach said.
Hahnville’s offense has averaged more than 40 points through the first two games of the season. For the Tigers to have a chance to come close to those numbers Friday, they will have to contain he seasoned defensive front of East St. John.
The headliner of the group is Jackie Marshall, a Baylor commitment.
“He’s a linebacker speed guy playing at defensive end,” Luquet said of Marshall. “That can put you in a bind when it comes to trying to block him up front. He’s a physical kid. He’s strong, but speed kills you when you have a guy like that coming off the edge. You have to do things to recognize that. It’s hard to sprint out to guys like that, who come up the field and have such quick feet.
“For us, it’s just a matter of inviting him up the field and doing the things we need to do to make sure that we recognize where he’s at.”
Joining Marshall up front is Welland Williams.
“He’s not as fast but he’s pretty fast. He’s a bigger, stronger kid,” said Luquet, comparing Williams to Marshall.
RayQuan Williams and George Smith are others along the defensive line.
“They do a good job of containing everything inside,” said Luquet. “They don’t let things get inside of them. They really do a great job of folding everything inside to their guys in the middle and chasing that thing down from the back end.”
There is less experience along the back end after East St. John lost four secondary players who have moved on to the college level.
“They are inexperienced in the secondary so the amount of pressure they can give you and not give you so much time to think about it is better for them defensively,” said Luquet.
The East St. John offense features a number of new starters, including quarterback Marcus Jackson.
“He’s a thick kid. He’s not your average-sized quarterback. He does a great job of commanding their offense. He does a great job when they do their option. If you take the pitch man, when he gets going downhill, it takes more than two guys to knock him down,” said Luquet.
Only a sophomore, Cortez Fisher already is making his presence felt at running back.
Fisher rushed or 189 yards in East St. John’s 34-20 win last week over H.L. Bourgeois.
Containing Jackson and Fisher, Luquet said, will be a major focus for the Tigers on Friday.
“We have to do a better job of corralling the backs in the backfield. Based off of last week, we have to do a better job of setting the edge. Really, we just need to keep him bottled up, make them go 10, 11, 12 plays and not let them score in five,” the Hahnville coach said.
Like the ESJ secondary, the Wildcats lost a number of receivers from a year ago. While the new group may be inexperienced, there is talent. Chief among the group is junior Kylon Harris, who can line up anywhere on the field.
“It’s matchups,” said Luquet. “They do a great job of matching him up against secondary guys, safeties, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, and just try to get him to the football.”
Friday’s game will be the first on the road for the Tigers. Because of a quirk in the schedule, Hahnville will play at East St. John for the first time in three years.
“They were co-champions with us last year. It’s something for us where being able to go there and being able to beat them on their field and it being a good game and come out healthy with a chance to get another ‘W’ in the district, that’s what you look for,” Luquet said.
Coming off a 47-34 win last week over Terrebonne, the Wildcats represent another quality opponent for the Tigers, according to Luquet.
“This is a playoff team we are going to play. Last week was a playoff team that we were going to play. Moving forward, we have three or more football games against playoff football teams. For us, it’s a chance to continue to build as a program and continue to grow as a football team,” the Hahnville coach said.