Will the Hahnville Tigers, after losing two in a row and coming off a 23-21 loss to rival Destrehan, answer the challenge when they host Chalmette in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs on Friday night in Boutte?
“I place the loss on Destrehan to me but I challenged them (the Tigers) to regroup themselves. They have to be able to regroup themselves. At the end of the day, we’re the district champions, we’re 8-2, we’re 12 points away from being undefeated. We’re a couple of plays here and there from being undefeated. Let’s go out and do what I think we can do in the state playoffs. I think we are going to be a really good playoff team.”
Folks will find out beginning Friday if that’s the case. It begins by Saltaformaggio facing one of his former teams. He was at Chalmette from 1998-2004, serving as the Owls’ coach from 2002-04.
Facing his old school had Saltaformaggio in a reflective mood.
“The positive for me was my career got better…I was one of the fortunate ones from (Hurricane) Katrina. When Katrina hit, I got a really good job in Georgia,” he said. “I came back here (to Louisiana) and I took over East Jefferson, won a state championship and now I’m the head coach at Hahnville, and we can win state championships here because of the talent and school system.
“The negative is I will always live for the rest of my life with the regret of not going back and helping that parish rebuild. My wife’s family is from there. Many, many, many kids that I grew up with as a young kid and as a high school student, live, and some remain, in St. Bernard Parish. Some of my best friends are living there. I will always feel like I turned my back on Mr. Wayne Warner (principal at Chalmette), who other than Ken Oertling (former Hahnville principal and current St. Charles Parish Schools Superintendent), has been the greatest on me professionally. It’s difficult for me to think about that.”
“I think they think they are a Wing-T team. They run a lot of Wing-T plays. You will see guards pulling all over the place. The trap is a big play for them,” said Saltaformaggio.
Joshua Taylor, Teryan Nelson, and Joseph Hills all line up at quarterback, along with playing varied positions on offense for Chalmette (8-2), the No. 21 seed
“What they do is they try to formation you into a mistake and try to crease it real quickly,” Saltaformaggio explained. “They like to run the ball inside the tight ends’ hips.
“We have to be really good at the line of scrimmage. We have to be exceptional at the second level with our reads. If we can do that, we will be fine.”
Michael Williams leads a group of running backs that also includes the aforementioned quarterbacks.
“They go with a bunch of different guys,” said Saltaformaggio. “I think Michael Williams is probably the fastest of the group. They will put Nelson at running back some. When Nelson is at quarterback, Taylor may be at running back.
“It’s the same thing at receiver. One of those guys may be out playing receiver as well.”
Chalmette plays multiple fronts on defense but Friday night’s outcome, Saltaformaggio said, won’t be based on any particular alignment or personnel on the part of the Owls.
“It doesn’t matter to me what Chalmette does – if we get poor quarterback play, it’s going to be a fight. That’s just the reality up,” the Hahnville coach said.
In the loss to Destrehan, Hahnville got the ball back down by two points at their own 36-yard line with slightly more than two minutes remaining and two timeouts but were unable to move the ball.
The reason, Saltaformaggio said, was because the Tigers, who enter the playoffs 8-2 and as the No. 12 seed, didn’t utilize Darryle Evans enough in crunch time.
So, expect a heavy diet of Evans in the postseason.
“The best player on the field is going to be Darryle Evans, no question about it. So, let’s run him as far as we can run him,” said Saltaformaggio. “He got offered by Colorado State and we will run him until he moves to Fort Collins, Colorado. He may have as many carries as miles to Colorado before the end of the playoffs are over.”