Anticipating what will be an oft-asked question; Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio already has his answer down pat about the Tigers trying to replace all-everything Anthony “Pooka” Williams.
“We should be really, really good this year because we only have to replace one guy,” Saltaformaggio said with tongue firmly in cheek during the opening day of Hahnville’s spring practice on Tuesday afternoon.
Williams accounted for the majority of the Tigers’ offense and was a whiz as a return man on special teams during Hahnville’s run the Class 5A state championship game a year ago. Headed to the Kansas Jayhawks of the Big XII, he leaves a big void to fill but the cupboard is far from bare for the Tigers in 2018.
“We like what we have coming back,” Saltaformaggio said. “We have two talented sophomore backs in Darryle Evans and Brandon Comardelle. Those guys will have plenty of opportunities to run the ball. We will not really get away a whole lot from where we were.
“We are obviously big up front offensively with some talented kids. We would like to throw the ball a little more. I think Andrew (Naquin) gives us that option. If we can get the ball to Jhaquan (Jackson) in space, he’s had a great off season. We feel like we have some really good weapons to play with offensively. Again, it will be the power run game and try to become a little better defensively.”
This is not to say there won’t be a learning curve for the Tigers.
Jackson has switched back from quarterback to his natural receiver position and Naquin, who will be a sophomore in the fall, will be vying for the quarterback position.
The learning curve also goes beyond the players. A number of new coaches will have to mesh together as well.
Chris Stroud is now coaching the freshman team, with Saltaformaggio taking on the added duties of defensive coordinator.
Former Hahnville quarterback Easton Melancon is back at his alma mater as an assistant coach. Hahnville also has added from Thibodaux assistant Marc Gonzales and Ervin Hodges. Hodges, who will coach linebackers, once played for Saltaformaggio when the two were at Holy Cross.
Saltaformaggio said he liked the retention by his players – a byproduct of a long playoff run a year ago.
“I think the good thing about as long as we played is we got another ‘spring football,’ out of it. Even though it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, we got those extra five weeks of practice and we are kind of picking up where we left off,” he said.
The Tigers will practice twice more this week and three times next week before conducting an intra-squad scrimmage on May 12. After two more days of work, Hahnville will conclude spring drills by hosting D’Iberville, Miss., in the Spring Game at 5:30 p.m. May 17 in Boutte.