TWISTS AND TURNS
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011
By RYAN ARENA
RESERVE — When it comes to the heated and usually thrilling rivalry between East St. John and Hahnville, Tigers’ coach Lou Valdin said it comes down to one word: respect.
“In the beginning, it was big because I was there and then came here,” said Valdin, who coached at East St. John in the later 90s prior to accepting his current position at Hahnville. “Then, for awhile, we were the two best teams in the district in the early part of the decade. So there’s a mutual respect between the programs, and you see it come out on the field.”
Indeed, Hahnville (2-3, 1-0) and East St. John (4-2, 1-0) have played in some classics over the years. There was the Katrina season in which the teams played on three separate occasions, including two games that came down to the final play (One, a HHS win, was decided on a Hail Mary; Hahnville also downed the ‘Cats in a close state quarterfinal). There was ESJ’s win in six overtimes in 2007, then another Wildcats’ win in overtime in 2008.
The teams have traded decisive wins in each of the last two seasons en route to district crowns, HHS winning in 2009 and ESJ taking it a year ago.
Valdin said that these games usually come down to a great playmaker taking over; a scary proposition, he said, because he believes the Wildcats will have the best player on the field in quarterback Darion Monroe. Monroe has completed 59-percent of his passes for 1,189 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions; he’s also the Wildcats’ leading rusher with 322 yards and seven touchdowns on seven carries.
When asked how the Tigers would go about trying to contain him, Valdin took a deep breath and contemplated silently before giving his answer.
“We gotta go after him,” he said. “We have to get him on the ground. He hurt us last year. Everyone talked about D’haquille Williams, but last year he caught three passes. He didn’t beat Hahnville. Monroe beat Hahnville. Every time there was a big play, he made it.
“You can’t sit back and say, we’re gonna keep him from running and make him throw. He’s got too many weapons. You really have to come after him and just take your chances.”
Most of the rivalry has been contested with Valdin matching wits with coach Larry Dauterive, ESJ’s former coach. Now, he contends with Phillip Banko, whom he coached with at Shaw and at Jesuit and considers a personal friend.
Valdin said that when he sees East St. John now, he sees a different approach from what his team is used to seeing.
“When Doe was there, he tried to fool you offensively. A million formations, trick plays,” said Valdin. “They played one defense, played man. With Doe, it was the offense of the week. With Banko, they’ve got an offense and they’ve got a defense. They’re multiple, (but you see some consistency).
“Their kicking game is very good. In the past, we could win the kicking game. We’d get a block for a touchdown, run back a kickoff. Their special teams are very good, now. I’m not sure we can count on winning in that area this week.”
Banko said that while much talk has centered around HHS losing 18 starters from a year ago, he knows Valdin is bringing a very strong team to Reserve.
“He’s someone I consider a friend and a mentor,” said Banko. “He took me under his wing (ay Shaw) and taught me not just about football, but life.
“I also know he’s the winningest football coach in Hahnville history. They’re coming here to take something from us, and it’s up to us to not let it happen.”
Both teams were impressive last week in winning its district opener. For ESJ, it was a dominating 43-15 win over John Ehret. For HHS, a 24-15 win over then-undefeated Bonnabel (6-1, 0-1).
East St. John scored on seven of its first nine possessions and held Ehret to five first downs, only one of those coming in the first three quarters.
Darion Monroe accounted for six touchdowns (six rushing, six passing). Deszmann Broussard scored on two receptions. Kadeem Vance scored on another.
For Hahnville, Ernest Thompson led the way in a game where the Tigers led 24-3 entering the fourth quarter. Thompson rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Easton Melancon also connected with Kailon Carter for a 5-yard touchdown.
Bonnabel had outscored its previous four opponents