Hahnville carries lofty expectations into season

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Hahnville’s elimination from the 2008 state playoffs came as a tough pill to swallow for the team and its fans — after a thrilling victory in the regular season over district rival Dutchtown, the Tigers were throttled by the Griffins in a first round rematch, 35-7.

HHS coach Lou Valdin expects bigger, better things this season. And one look at his resume — in this case, that 2003 state championship ring he sports when he coached the Tigers to a Superdome victory over powerful Evangel — makes you inclined to believe him.

“Expectations are always going to be high at Hahnville,” Valdin says. “I expect this team to go further than last year’s. We’re more experienced. Offensively, we have strong weapons and we’re deep. Plus the fact that we’re simply stronger and faster than last year.”

Valdin isn’t the only one that sees positive things on the horizon. While Destrehan hasn’t lost a game within District 6-5A — or overall — in two years, many see Hahnville as the heir to the district crown in 2009.

Maybe even the state crown, for that matter.

The biggest reason for optimism might be the running game, backed by a talented offensive line and a stable of standout running backs.

Alfred Blue is garnering lots of attention after a strong junior season, now being recruited by a string of major Division I colleges. The 6’2, 205 pound rusher rambled for 603 yards on only 87 carries and scored 12 touchdowns overall last season. He’s complimented in the backfield by fellow speedster Ahmed White and fullbacks Lloyd Richard and Michael Ford

Blue and White, Valdin says, are prototype tailbacks.

“They’re going to provide us with big plays,” said Valdin. “These guys know how to run.”

Brien Ensminger, Jr. — the nephew of former LSU quarterback Steve Ensminger and the son of HHS assistant Brien Ensminger, Sr. — takes over the starting quarterback job as a junior, stepping in for the departed Seppe Crovetto.

“He shows a lot of poise under pressure,” says Valdin. “That’s one of the concerns we had, how he’s take to that. So far, so good. He handles himself well, and he saw a lot of varsity action last season.”

He’ll have a talented stable of receivers to throw to, led by a player Valdin calls the surprise of the summer. At 6’2 and 190 pounds, wide receiver James Butler was been opening eyes with his explosiveness and his work ethic, and Valdin believes that he’ll draw plenty of attention from opposing defensive coordinators this season. Colleges, too.

“Early in the spring, we maybe thought he’d be a DI player, but a mid-major type. Conference USA, the Sun Belt,” said Valdin. “But the work he’s put in, he’s much better, much stronger now. He’s getting offers from the SEC now.”

Defensively, only two starters return — defensive tackle Shea Majoria and linebacker Ben Taylor — but the rest of the unit is not without varsity experience. The secondary is completely rebuilt, but Valdin believes he has six defensive backs that can stand out with experience.

“We’re not very big, but we have a lot of speed,” said Valdin.

As one might expect, the schedule is full of marquee matchups, beginning week one at home against John Ehret. Lutcher visits in week three. Road tilts with O. Perry Walker and Vandebilt Catholic lead into district play.

And that’s where the bullets start to really fly. Valdin believes the district will be the tightest it’s been since it was formed earlier this decade.

“At its inception, the three River Parish teams really dominated the three Ascension Catholic teams,” said Valdin.

“The last two years, Destrehan really dominated, but last year Dutchtown was the next best team. It’ll be much closer this season.”

Valdin says he expects Destrehan again to be “very, very good,” but that they’ll come relatively back to the pack while East Ascension and St. Amant should be much improved.

“St. Amant played a bunch of young guys last year. We had them week 10, and it was a dogfight,” said Valdin. “EA played young guys too, and they’ll be good defensively. They’re running the option, and that’s going to shorten the game.”

From the looks of the Tigers’ talent level, plenty of teams might just try to shorten the game against them. There may be plenty of chances to, even into mid-December.