Hahnville seeks first title in 14 years against Zachary
One more time.
Despite his diminutive frame, no one has loomed larger or played bigger than Hahnville senior Anthony “Pooka” Williams in the state playoffs in any classification. For the Tigers to achieve their ultimate goal, they will need one more gigantic effort from Williams.
The tenth-seeded Tigers and Pooka get that opportunity when they battle fourth-seed Zachary for the Class 5A state championship Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. You can listen to the game live on ESPN 100.3 FM and at www.espn1003.com.
In four playoff victories, Williams has now accounted for over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns in a brilliant performance. For the season, Williams now has 278 carries for 2,908 yards and 36 touchdowns. He has seven catches for 154 yards and a score and has returned a kickoff, as well as a punt for a touchdown.
Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio is a smart man. Suffice it to say that he will not try to reinvent the wheel Saturday night.
“We are going to turn around and hand the ball to Anthony,” Saltaformaggio said. “We know it, the opponent knows it, the fans know it. Even when people know he is coming, they have not stopped him. I’ve said it many times but he is the best player in Louisiana, the best I’ve ever coached.”
Williams has a running mate in quarterback Jha’quan Jackson. Since taking over at quarterback, Jackson has been a force. He has rushed 164 times for 1,033 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jackson does not throw it much or very effectively, completing 22-of-64 passes for 467 yards and six touchdowns with eight interceptions. Still, a big play in the passing game Saturday night is not out of the question.
“When people gang up to stop the run, you have a chance to make a play in the passing game against man coverage,” Saltaformaggio said. “I’m hoping that we can make one of those plays in the game. It takes big plays to win championships.”
The Tigers returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns a week ago. Williams got the first one and Michael Grey delivered the second.
“The kicking game is huge in big games,” Saltaformaggio said. “I hope we get a chance to return a couple Saturday night but Zachary has an excellent kicker and kicking game.”
Both teams won at very tough places to win in the semifinals.
Hahnville snapped Acadiana’s 25-game home playoff win streak in its thrilling 43-42 overtime win.
The Broncos knocked out top-seed West Monroe 29-27 at West Monroe in the semifinals.
“Zachary is an outstanding team,” Saltaformaggio said. “It is a great program. They won it all in 2015 and are back again. That speaks volume about who they are. They had a great quarterback when they won it but it was not all about him. They are a superb team.”
The Broncos are led by quarterback Keilon Brown, who has completed 125-of-219 passes for 2,074 yards and 23 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He is a superb runner as well with 151 carries for 986 yards and 19 touchdowns. Darweshi Sanders has rushed 155 times for 935 yards and eight scores. Chandler Whitfield is the top receiver with 47 catches for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns while Trea Shropshire has 38 receptions for 633 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Brown is a really good football player who can hurt you both ways,” Saltaformaggio said. “You have to maintain discipline defensively because he can take off and run it at anytime and really hurt you. Of course, he throws it well, also.”
Zachary lost only to University High and to Catholic High, both of whom are playing for state championships this weekend. Hahnville lost to John Ehret and Hahnville but the Tigers have won 11 straight.
Hahnville sold all of its tickets in no time and the demand for more was huge.
“This is why I came to Hahnville,” Saltaformaggio said. “The community support here is second to none and I know there are communities that really support their teams, including Zachary. “The people here live Hahnville football 24/7. They are rabid, great. They expect you to win. I’m pleased we were able to get here for them and for our players and coaches. Now, we just have to find a way to make it 12 straight, to do it one more time.”
Expect a heavy dose of Pooka as the Tigers try to get it done.
“As an old coach once told me, don’t try to complicate things, go with what brought you here,” Saltaformaggio said.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…