A year ago, Hahnville was unbeaten through eight games before losing the final two regular-season games to Jesuit and Destrehan.
Hahnville lost 47-21 last week to Jesuit, so the Tigers need a win over their rivals Friday night to keep history from repeating itself.
“It comes down to that you don’t want to enter the playoffs on a two-game losing streak,” first-year Hahnville head coach Daniel Luquet said. “You want to have success.
“Moving forward towards the playoffs, at the end of the day, you are playing two quality football teams in Jesuit and Destrehan. If you don’t play your game, and you don’t play 48 minutes, good football teams will beat you. That’s what the message has been this week. We have to play a complete football game in order to beat good Destrehan football team.”
Hahnville goes into Friday’s game against visiting Destrehan 4-1 in District 7-5A and 5-2 overall. Destrehan is 5-0 in league play and 6-1 overall. That means the district title will be on the line.
“It really doesn’t matter what the records are of these two football teams,” said Luquet. “It usually brings out the best in each team. It just happens this time around there is a little more up for grabs.
“It doesn’t take much to get your kids ready to play Destrehan. I’m sure it doesn’t take much to get them ready to play Hahnville.”
As always, Destrehan has a powerful running attack.
The veteran is Razan Keller.
“The thing about Keller is that he may be getting his first chance at being the main carrier, but he’s been doing it for a long time. He’s very seasoned. Very experienced on Friday nights. He’s just really relaxed. You can see with the way he plays. He knows what his job is. He’s a big kid. He’s a tough kid to bring down. You have to gang tackle him. He will break arm tackles,” Luquet explained.
Also seeing action at running back is freshman Shane Lee.
“Then they bring in the Lee kid who gives them a different look. He’s a smaller kid but has a little more explosion,” said Luquet.
The Destrehan running game, Luquet said, extends beyond just the running backs.
“They play well of the fact that Jai (Eugene) can run the football, too. You can’t load up on them too much because then Jai comes out the back end,” said Luquet.
Luquet knows the Destrehan sophomore quarterback quite well. His father, Jai Eugene Sr., is a former Destrehan and LSU player. Luquet is a former Wildcat quarterback.
“Me and his dad have known each other for a long time,” Luquet said. “There are so many similarities to his dad, it’s scary.”
“The fact of the matter is, I know the kid has been trained to do this for his entire life. He’s been around football his entire life,” Luquet continued. “There is no situation that is too big for him. It’s just a matter of them formulating and designing things that he’s comfortable with. You can see that with the more the weeks go by, the more they let him do. They are giving him a chance to really flourish in who he is.”
When throwing the football, Eugene has to look no farther than receivers Calvin Bullock and Daniel Blood
“Calvin and Daniel Blood are two guys that played a lot last year. They are very experienced guys. When they are trying to push the ball down the field, they are the guys that he looks for. They should be. When you played in the Dome, you have done things most people haven’t,” said Luquet.
The Destrehan offensive line is anchored by senior Eli Taffi, the son of Wildcats assistant coach, Tim Taffi.
“Eli Taffi is the one coming back from last year. I get excited seeing the things Eli is doing because I was coaching with his daddy at Destrehan when he was just a little kid. He’s a hard-nosed kid. I know he’s strong as heck. He works his tail off in the weight room. By knowing that kid, I know he’s the leader of that offensive line,” Luquet said.
The entire Destrehan offensive line is sound, according to Luquet.
“They are not the most physical when it comes to every down, but they are technicians. They do what they need to do. If they need to double up to the second level, they are there. When they are pulling, they know exactly where they are supposed to go. They have great angles,” the Hahnville coach said.
Like with the Destrehan offense, the Wildcats’ defensive also provides an opponent with serious challenges.
“Their front seven is probably the best I’ve seen in a while. They look a lot like we did last year,” said Luquet.
Manning the defensive line are the likes of Jhase Gooden, Jennaro Scott, Caleb Burks and Breylon Charles. Steven Walker is a player Destrehan likes to walk up on the line.
“They are big. They are physical. They do a great job,” Luquet said.
Michael Jackson, a former receiver, is at linebacker.
The leader of the defense is senior linebacker Dylan Gibbs.
“He’s the catalyst of what they are trying to do,” said Luquet. “They do a great job of swarming to make tackles. They don’t miss tackles. They fill gaps. They time out blitzes very well. They do a really good job of coaching that front seven over there. They are very fundamentally sound.”
Along with the front seven, teams also have to contend with Destrehan defensive back Tyler Morton.
“He’s their eraser,” Luquet said. “If they were to make a mistake up front, he makes a lot of open-field tackles. They leave him in the middle in a cover-3 scheme and he just diagnoses things. He has a knack for the football.”
Morton also is a major cog for the Wildcats in the return game.
“You can’t lose this game on special teams and you can’t lose this game by kicking to him and giving him an opportunity to change the scoreboard or change the game,” said Luquet.
Along with playing for a chance to share a district title, the Tigers also are jockeying for playoff positioning. At No. 17 in the unofficial power rankings, Hahnville is facing a balancing act between hosting a first-round Class 5A playoff game or having to opening the postseason on the road.
Figuring out possible postseason scenarios is a different task in a coronavirus-influenced 2020 season where the number of games played has varied from team to team.
“We won a game a couple of weeks ago and dropped three spots,” Luquet said. “Playing Destrehan, obviously, if you win, you will get a home game. But if you lose to Destrehan and they finish 6-1, you may still get a home game.
“Obviously, we want to take care of business and win this game and win this district championship. Where we fall, we fall. It’s such a crazy year when it comes to power points.”
“It just goes down to we know we are in the playoffs,” he continued. “Let’s win this football game and take it game by game. It’s been a wild eight weeks, for sure.”