Tigers return more experienced group

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2012



BOUTTE – After four games, the 2011 Hahnville football program found itself in a very unfamiliar position.

The Tigers were just 1-3 to start the season, with all three losses coming by 13 points or more.

It might have been a mistake for a Tiger supporter to expect much more in that stretch, with a relatively inexperienced team facing powerhouses the likes of Jesuit, Lutcher and St. Augustine.

It would have been a larger mistake to count them out.

Hahnville rallied to end its regular season with five wins in six games, netting the Tigers a share of the District 8-5A championship and extending its long run of postseason appearances. Hahnville’s lone loss in district play came at the hands of East St. John, a six point loss that left the Tigers perhaps wondering what might have been – that game saw HHS starting quarterback Easton Melancon become a late scratch due to an illness.

The late season charge showed, once again, that counting a perennial powerhouse out prematurely might not be the wisest course of action.

This season, Hahnville brings back 11 starters, including Melancon for his second season of duty under center.

“We’re maybe not as athletic as we were last season,” said Hahnville coach Lou Valdin. “But we’re more experienced… Obviously, Easton comes back. Last season we really asked him to just not make mistakes. This season, we’ll need him to make plays for us.”

Valdin believes that his senior quarterback is up to the challenge.

“He’s ready. He’s proven that he’s an exceptional team leader. And I think he’s got a much better grasp of our offense now.”

That’s not to say that the Tigers are preparing to go to a full out aerial assault. Valdin said the opposite is true, in fact, and that while Melancon may be asked to be more aggressive, the team might actually run the ball more overall this season.

A young stable of tailbacks will be aided by the addition of Cody Morales to the backfield. Morales played tight end last season and had a standout campaign. This season, however, he’ll line up at fullback, a move that Valdin believes accomplishes multiple goals.

“It’s a move we made in order to get our best players on the field,” Valdin said. “Tyler Lamers was our backup tight end, and a good one, so this gets him in the lineup. Cody’s a big boy, he can block and catch. He’s one of our most experienced pass receivers, and what this also does is it gives us a chance to get him isolated against a linebacker.”

Defensively, Hahnville was a much improved team down the stretch in 2011. After allowing 34 points or more in three consecutive games just prior to district play, it allowed no more than 36 over any two games the rest of the way in the regular season – just 74 points over five games, including a 34-3 win and a 25-8 win over Destrehan and Higgins respectively.

The team must replenish what was a loaded secondary that  was led by now-LSU defensive back Jerqwinick Sandolph in 2011. That unit was perhaps the most feared on the team, but is now very young. Valdin said that it doesn’t change the team’s plans.

“Replacing those guys will be our biggest challenge. That’s high school football. It’s the next man up, next man fills in,” said Valdin. “We expect the next guys to step up and do the job.”

Linebackers Sergio Medina  and  Anthony Mott are expected to each be among the team’s defensive leaders.

Hahnville was one-and-done in the playoffs last season, a loss on the road to West Monroe ending their campaign.

Valdin said that this year, an immediate goal is to be hosting that first playoff game. A way to do that, somewhat ironically, would be to improve performance on the road, where HHS was 1-4 away from Boutte last season, including the playoff loss.

“It’s hard to say where you’ll be considering the injury factor in high school football,” Valdin said. “But I’d like for us to at least be able to host a home playoff game. It’s awfully tough to go on the road and win to start off, and we’ve been in that position.

“I’d like to see us play a little better on the road. We always play well at home, but I want to see our team do it away from our place a little more.”