Denham Springs found out the hard way that it’s never good to face Anthony “Pooka” Williams when the Hahnville running back feels a bit slighted.
Williams rushed for 305 yards and five touchdowns as Hahnville ran past visiting Denham Springs 42-21 in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs Friday night in Boutte.
“He lost the rushing crown last week because we only ran him 11 times. We only ran him 18 times the last two weeks and he was out to prove to a bunch of people who kind of had forgotten about him who the best player in the state was,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said.
The limited number of carries the last two weeks came as the Tigers built big leads and wanted to rest Williams and other starters.
“He’s playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. I told him, ‘there is no more taking you out in the second half,’ said Saltaformaggio.
That was the plan Friday night but another big lead led to Williams only playing three quarters. He proved to be a workhorse in those three quarters, amassing his 305 yards on 26 carries.
“He had 305 yards in three quarters because we didn’t play him in the fourth quarter because we were up. Those are the kind of nights he will have when he gets the ball like he’s getting it,” Saltaformaggio said.
The win advances Hahnville, the No. 10 seed, to the second round at Ruston, the No. 7 seed. Ruston (8-2) eliminated East St. John 35-25 Friday to end the Wildcats’ season.
A 44-yard run by Williams late in the first quarter staked Hahnville (9-2) to a 7-0 lead against the Yellowjackets.
Denham Springs countered moments later on a 1-yard run by J.P. Preston to the tie the game at the end of one quarter.
Williams added a pair of 7-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter, the first only eight seconds in the period and the other at the 1:44 mark to give Hahnville a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Yellowjackets inched to within a touchdown three minutes into the second half on a 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Brennan LeBlanc.
Hahnville quickly responded when a kickoff return to midfield set up a Williams touchdown run less than a minute later to make it 28-14.
“We had kind of put ourselves in a little bit of coast mode when we were up 21-7 because they couldn’t move the ball on us at all but when they scooped and scored it gave them some momentum. We had to jump right back and take it back from them again and really dominated the second half,” Saltaformaggio said.
Williams’ final touchdown came on a 58-yard run with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
The only non-Williams touchdown came on a 23-yard run by quarterback Jha’Quan Jackson with 9:35 left in the game to make it 42-14. Jackson finished with 61 yards rushing on 13 carries and 2 of 11 passing for 16 yards.
Preston, who was 11 of 27 for 222 yards, tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hoover with 4:33 left in the game for the final margin.
Up next for the Tigers is a long trip to Ruston.
“A couple of years ago we made a long ride up when we were a 12 seed to play a 5 seed in Haughton and came home with a win. Hopefully, history repeats itself,” Saltaformaggio said.