Hahnville looks to take next step in district, statewide

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Hahnville Tigers Football
Photo: Steve Dalmado

Since arriving as head coach in 2014 off of a magical state championship season at East Jefferson in 2013, Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio has enjoyed success.

Hahnville played tough but lost in the second round to John Ehret 35-28 in the Class 5A playoffs a year ago. The Tigers reached the quarterfinals in 2015, falling to eventual state champion Zachary. The Tigers lost to arch-rival Destrehan in the quarterfinals in 2014.

Saltaformaggio has posted a 28-10 record in those three seasons, a very solid record for anyone. At tradition rich Hahnville, where the fan base is best described as rabid, they want more and Saltaformaggio understands it.

“I love the expectations,” Saltaformaggio said. “Being the head coach at Hahnville is always about expectations. Winning nine games a year is not enough. I want more. So do our coaches and kids. That’s what we are aiming for.”

Hahnville has won six state championships but none since 2003.

Fortunately for Saltaformaggio, his Tigers appeared poised to take that next step in 2017.

There is a rich depth of talent returning from a year ago.

The new quarterback is junior J’Quan Jackson (5-11, 185), who moves from wide receiver. Jackson caught 22 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. Senior Anthony “Pooka” Williams (5-9, 170) is one of the most electrifying players in Louisiana, one of the fastest players anywhere. Williams rushed 99 times for 1,037 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 40 passes for 833 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. He is committed to Kansas. For good measure, he returned four kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns.

Junior slotback Mike Gray (5-7, 150) can really run as well. Gray caught 14 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 144 yards and two scores in 2016. Junior Jamal Byrd (6-2, 190) is a returning all-district performer at wide receiver and is committed to Southern. Junior Jace Myers (5-9, 180) is the running back while Nolan Zeringue (6-5, 210) is a talented tight end.

“I love our skill set on offense,” Saltaformaggio said. “For the first time since Clifford White, Hahnville has a quarterback who can make plays when there is nothing there, extending plays. Byrd is big, tall and strong. Gray is the same way, smaller but with dynamic speed. Everyone knows about Pooka, who is special. We have good young kids behind them that we are excited about.”

The offensive line will be a real strength for Hahnville.

Senior tackles Larry Dixon (6-6, 330) and Edwin Wells (6-3, 290) are massive and physical. Dixon is committed to Mississippi State. Junior Guard Torin Borne (6-2, 300) is outstanding as well and is committed to Southern. All three were all-district performers a year ago. Junior DeQuinn Butler (5-10, 300) is the other guard while junior Gabe Medina (6-1, 260) is the center of a line which averages a whopping 296 pounds per person.

“Our center, Gabe Medina, is the runt of the litter and he is big,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’re physically big and stronger and we have huge guys and returning starters. Dixon is a beast and Borne can really play. Wells is big and strong. We moved him over from defense. Butler steps in at guard and he is strong and ready for a good year.”

The defense has less experience but should be solid.

Up front, junior Jalen Singleton (6-2, 205) and Lyncoy Renyard (6-0, 215) are the ends while sophomore Adonis Friloux (6-2, 265) is the nose tackle.

“If we have one issue, it is size up front,” Saltaformaggio said. “We do have guys who can run and they are strong.”

A pair of standout linebackers return in junior outside linebacker Cody Ambler (6-2, 200), who will also play defensive end, and junior inside linebacker Amonte Jernigan (6-1, 210). Seniors Conor Fenerty and Dylan Dejean (5-8, 180) are good players as well.

“We are better at linebacker,” Saltaformaggio said. “Jernigan looks the part of a college linebacker. He is long and can run and has special talent. Fenerty (6-1, 193) and Dejean are very good players.”

The secondary has three seniors, including safeties Logan Robert (6-0, 180) and Lane McCully (5-9, 155) and coernerback Lloyd Jones (5-11, 180). Sophomores Hunter LeBlanc (6-2, 170) and Syre Lewis (5-9, 150) are the other starters. LeBlanc is a McNeese commit.

“Syre recently lost his brother, Semaj,” Saltaformaggio said. “That is a very sad story but Syre is a good athlete, like his brother. Jones can run. Hunter LeBlanc can really run and is a good baseball player as well. Robert and McCully are solid players. We have quality depth in our secondary.”

The punter is junior Dalton Meloncon (5-10, 155) while the kicker is junior Thomas Rasco (6-2, 155). The return game will be a real strength with Williams and Gray.

“Rasco is a good kicker and Meloncon was an all-district punter a year ago,” Saltaformaggio said. “Our return game is elite.”

The schedule opens at home against West Jefferson on Sept. 1 before the Tigers travel to Hoss Memtsas Stadium for a showdown with powerful John Ehret. After hosting always tough Brother Martin, the Tigers open district 7-5A play at Destrehan in the biggest rivalry and game of the season for Hahnville. Week five finds Terrebonne at Boutte.

“The early schedule is challenging,” Saltaformaggio said. “That is the way we wanted it.”

The Tigers travel to Pearl River on Oct. 6 for a non-district contest before visiting Thibodaux and East St. John. The final two games of the season are home games against Central Lafourche and H.L. Bourgeois.

The success of Hahnville’s season will always be judged by how the Tigers fare against Destrehan. Saltaformaggio is 0-4 against the Wildcats in his three seasons and Hahnville has lost its last five to Steve Robicheaux’s squad.

“Destrehan is our nemesis,” Saltaformaggio said. “I get reminded every day. We know we have to meet the challenge and beat them if we want to advance our program.”

With a huge front and outstanding skill, Hahnville appears poised to take the next step, presenting a real threat to Destrehan and a real threat to all 5A teams in Louisiana in 2017.

“Let’s see where we are ranked, let’s see where are in November,” Saltaformaggio said. “It would be a real disappointment if we are not coaching and playing Thanksgiving week. That is the expectation.”

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