If you are of the belief that you will have to face Acadiana sooner or later in the Class 5A playoffs, you just as soon start preparing for the Rams as early as possible.
That’s been the philosophy from the start for Nick Saltaformaggio as his Hahnville squad travels to Acadiana to take on the Rams and their vaunted split-veer option offense in the Class 5A semifinals on Friday night.
“We’ve been doing a veer drill in practice since I’ve gotten here. It’s just something I believe in,” Saltaformaggio said. “I think as you go through the state playoffs in 5A football, you just have a feeling one day you will run into Acadiana. They always seem to be playing at least until Thanksgiving.
“I’m a veer option guy by my own personality; I like veer option football. I’ve always believed that you can’t prepare for those types of things in a week so take five minutes out of your practice starting in August and work a veer drill. We’ve been working on it since we’ve gotten here. It’s not anything new for us. What will be new is you can’t duplicate the intensity and speed you will see Friday night. We have to be able to duplicate the intensity and speed defensively while still playing our assignments.”
Acadiana’s offense, said Saltaformaggio, is similar to another school’s attack known for running the veer – John Curtis.
“They don’t want to pitch the ball. They want to give it to a dive back or keep it with the quarterback – and they don’t keep it that much to begin with. They really want to give it to the dive back,” the Hahnville coach said.
The Rams’ offense poses a couple of challenges for an opposing defense, Saltaformaggio said. One such concern is a tactic employed by the Acadiana offensive line.
“Their offensive line doesn’t come to a set stance before they snap the ball,” Saltaformaggio explained. “They will get them down, they will be in a two-point stance and the quarterback will start the cadence. They will be going down as the cadence is starting and the ball is being snapped. They kind of get a forward roll prior to the snap.
“Last week against Live Oak, I noticed on film that it was called a lot early and they kind of got away from it. What will happen, too, is they will do it, they will do it, and then they will go on three (the snap count). So you are used to having to come off early because they are coming off early and the next thing you know, you are giving them five yards because they are going on three and they are going on two.”
Is the play illegal?
“I don’t want to say it’s dirty pool because they have been doing it forever, but it is illegal. Some crews call it and some don’t,” Saltaformaggio said.
The other concern, Saltaformaggio said, is the depth his defenders may have to take because of the Rams’ ‘forward roll.’”
“It almost makes you play a little further off the ball to just defend your legs from the way they block their veer-option football,” the Hahnville coach said.
Acadiana, the No. 3 seed, is 12-1 on the season and coming off a narrow 17-14 triumph over upstart Live Oak in the quarterfinals.
The Rams rushed for almost 400 yards in the game. Dillion Monette, Acadiana’s 5-foot-7, 155-pound sophomore running back, rushed for 263 yards against Live Oak. Ziggy Francis, a 5-foot-6, 175-pound senior, is the other major running threat for Acadiana.
“Looking at them on film, they want Ziggy Francis and Dillon Monette with the ball in their hands,” Saltaformaggio said. “Their quarterback, Jaylon Borel, while being a great athlete and being a bigger kid, he doesn’t run the ball a whole lot.
“For us, it will be squeezing those down blocks and making sure we take the dive. If Borel does keep it, putting a big hit on him will be big. We need to put that big hit on him and make him want to give the ball.”
The Rams like to have Francis and Monette run behind the offensive line tandem of tackle D’Quanis Robertson, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound senior and Damien Handy, a 6-foot, 310-pound senior.
“The big thing we have to do defensively besides matching physicality with physicality we have to be very concrete in our assignments. If you are responsible for dive, you take dive. If you are responsible for quarterback, take quarterback. If you are responsible for pitch, take pitch. Don’t come up and take somebody else’s assignment because that creates a cavity where you should be,” Saltaformaggio said.
Acadiana lines up in a 4-3 alignment on defense.
The Rams are not particularly large up front, with the exception of Elisha Sion, a 6-foot-1, 315-pound defensive tackle.
Acadiana has a good cover cornerback in Dentreal Mouton but it a game where the Tigers will be looking to stop Monette and Francis while the Rams attempt to contain Anthony “Pooka” Williams, pass defense may not be as much of a premium.
“In a game like this, your cornerbacks need to tackle more than pass defend,” Saltaformaggio said.
Acadiana’s defense, Saltaformaggio said, reminds him of his own unit.
“They get the stop when they need to get the stop. Unless you are just completely superior to your opponent, the day and age of stonewalling people defensively is a bygone era,” said Saltaformaggio.
The outcome of the game, Saltaformaggio said, isn’t likely to be determined early
“I think it will be a game that late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter, somebody will enforce their will on the opponent and that’s the team that will come out of it,” the Hahnville coach said.