History suggests wild ESJ/HHS game on tap

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2014


RESERVE —  It’s East St. John, it’s Hahnville, and just about anything can happen.

When it comes to the rivalry between the Tigers and Wildcats, who will square off at Joe Keller Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday night, predictability isn’t in the cards. Last season, ESJ took a 28-12 victory at Hahnville; a year prior, it was the host Tigers pinning East St. John with its lone district loss, 26-16. The year before that? The Wildcats again, this time by a 27-21 score.

Have we mentioned the six overtime game between the teams in 2007, a 43-42 ESJ victory? How about the “Katrina season,” where the teams played each other three different times, a series won 2-1 by Hahnville that saw two games come down to Hail Mary passes on the final play — and one of them completed for the win?

One thing is for sure: East St. John coach Phillip Banko is quite aware of the history between these two teams. Banko, in fact, was ESJ’s defensive coordinator during the six overtime classic.

“Both teams always have strong talent,” Banko said. “Both teams have had strong coaching, great fan support, and tough-minded football teams. (Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio) talks about being a tough football team, and I can recognize off the bat they are that.

“They run the triple-option now, and that’s different. But defensively, they still fly to the football. They’re still good on special teams, with good return units and good kickers. They’re still Hahnville and that means they’re a tremendous challenge.”

Hahnville (3-3, 1-2) began the season as something of a surprise Class 5A championship contender — or at least as much of a surprise as a program with Hahnville’s tradition could be. A triple overtime loss at home to Class 5A No. 1 Rummel was followed, amazingly, by another triple overtime game — this time, the Tigers bested Class 4A No. 3 Landry-Walker on the road. While first year Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio made major changes to both the team’s offensive and defensive identities, HHS hit the ground running to begin the season.

But when Hahnville lost quarterback Mike Neal to injury prior to its Week Four District 7-5A opening game against Thibodaux, it seemed to have major impact. Hahnville lost that game, 17-14, then struggled to get its offense on track a week later in a 23-6 loss at Destrehan.

But Hahnville — and its offense — bounced back last week, winning at home over Terrebonne, 59-35. HHS amassed 519 yards of total offense, with the production spread around the field in Saltaformaggio’s triple-option attack. HHS rushed for 327 yards. Drew Dunn led the HHS rushing attack with 99 yards, while Brandon Singleton — a Georgia Tech commitment — led the receiving corps with seven catches for 113 yards.

Austin Perrin played his best game of his three-start sample size, completing 12 of 19 pass attempts for 192 yards and three touchdowns.

Devonte Cravin, Bradley Aucoin, Rickey Preston and Norquell Flowers each made impacts as well for Hahnville, displaying the diverse ways the Tigers can score.

“With so many weapons on their side, we’re going to have to be assignment-sound,” Banko said. “And against John Curtis, for one, we were not that. It bit us, and it’ll come back to bite us again on Friday if we don’t fix it.”

Singleton, Banko said, is an all-around, true football player.

“He brings a lot to the table,” Banko said. “He blocks well, runs well and catches well. It’s why Georgia Tech went after him. We have to be careful as to how we play him.”