When the 2014 high school football schedules came out in August, folks across St. Charles Parish circled the date of Oct. 3.
That’s the day the two local teams, Hahnville and Destrehan high schools, would clash on the gridiron in the annual battle for district standing.
For the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors, though, it’s all about bragging rights — and perhaps a little good-natured wagering among the plant workers. It’s the east bank vs. the west bank in a rivalry born centuries ago when it was all about sugar cane.
So, sure enough, on Oct. 3 hundreds of residents of St. Charles Parish were lined up outside the Destrehan football stadium hours before kickoff, well before the first game-day ticket was sold, even before the jambalaya was ready. And when the gates finally did open, they swarmed into the stands, one side wearing garnet, the other side wearing purple, and settled in for what has come to be called “the game of the year.”
Friday night, they get to do it all over again.
For only the second time in the history of the Battle of St. Charles Parish, which dates back to 1946, Hahnville and Destrehan will meet twice in the same season. The Class 5A football bracket has No. 4 seed Destrehan hosting No. 12 seed Hahnville in a quarterfinal playoff berth at 7 p.m.
Destrehan, the District 7-5A champion, is undefeated at 12-0. Hahnville enters the game with a 9-3 record, having won seven consecutive games since losing to Destrehan 24-6 on Oct. 3.
This will be the 62nd overall meeting between the two schools. Destrehan leads the series, 35-23. There have been three ties.
“It’s great for the community. It’s great for St. Charles Parish,” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux, a lifelong parish resident who works on the east bank and lives on the west bank. “Everybody’s excited about it. Everybody’s talking about it.”
Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio got his first taste of the rivalry in October. The longtime metro area coach spent the past six seasons at East Jefferson, leading the Warriors to last year’s Class 4A state title. He said the rivalry certainly has lived up to its storied reputation.
“Oh, it was fantastic,” he said. “Seeing all the people lined up outside, the tailgaters going. This is why I wanted the Hahnville job in the first place.”
Now he doesn’t even have to wait a whole year to see it again.
But St. Charles Parish’s football fans have had to wait a long time for a double-bill season like this one. The last time the two teams met twice was in 1972, when both competed in Class 2A.
Destrehan won the first meeting that year 14-0. The second game, played at Destrehan, ended in a scoreless tie. Back before the overtime rule was instituted, the officials looked at the number of first downs each team had gained to decide the winner. Hahnville was awarded the victory on first downs, 13-2. The Tigers then went on to win the Class 2A state championship over Denham Springs — again getting the victory on first downs after a 26-26 tie.
“This is really unprecedented in — I guess you’d call it the modern era,” said Destrehan Principal Steven Weber, also a lifelong parish resident, who has taught and coached at both schools. “And it’s a different atmosphere. I think Hahnville’s playing with a confidence they didn’t have the first time. A lot of Hahnville people are telling me, they got this.”
Weber reports that pregame ticket sales, moved to local businesses because of the weeklong school holiday, have been steady. Tickets are available at First American Bank in Norco. The ticket booth will open at 5 p.m. Friday.
The Destrehan campus will open at 3 p.m. Smoking, alcohol, barbecue pits and cooking are not allowed on campus.
In anticipation of a huge crowd, the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office has made some traffic changes. Beginning Friday morning, no parking will be allowed on Schexnaydre Lane or Thomas Colby Drive. Then, beginning at 2:30 p.m., Schexnaydre Lane will become one-way northbound toward Thomas Colby, and Thomas Colby will become one-way eastbound toward Ormond Boulevard.
Also, Wildcat Lane from Ormond Boulevard to the school will be used only for shuttle buses, which will be transporting fans from the Jerusalem Shrine Center on Ormond Boulevard to the game. The shuttle will begin at 5 p.m. and will run every half-hour until 7 p.m. Announcements regarding return trips will be made at the game.