COVINGTON — For the second week in a row, the Hahnville Tigers staged the comeback of their season.
After letting St. Paul’s take a 14-0 lead early, and despite several attempts to shoot themselves in the foot, Hahnville rallied late to take a 25-21 victory in Friday’s bidistrict playoff game.
With quarterback Easton Melancon directing, the Tigers went on a 54-yard drive, capped when workhorse running back Sergio Medina gained 24 yards on a draw play, then scored from 2 yards out with 4:01 remaining. The Tigers defense then held on, and broke up a last-second desperation attempt by the Wolves, to stay alive in the Class 5A playoffs.
“We live to fight another day,” said Hahnville coach Lou Valdin. “And we get to go back to Tiger Stadium next week, so we’re happy.”’
But on more than one occasion Friday night, it didn’t look like that would happen. St. Paul’s, the No. 10 seed, stunned the Tigers early with big plays and took advantage of some Hahnville miscues. But Hahnville’s defense stiffened when it counted. The Tigers held St. Paul’s to minus-14 yards rushing. All of the Wolves’ offense came from quarterback Ryan O’Krepki, who was 12 of 25 for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
Melancon was 14 of 27 for 324 and two touchdowns on the night.
“You’ve got to realize, I didn’t want this to be my last game,” Melancon said. “All these seniors, our last year, we worked too hard.”
“I wish we’d start off good,” Valdin said. “We kind of started off slow. We made mistakes on defense. Gave up two cheap ones. And then we kind of settled down and started playing football. St. Paul’s did a great job of shutting down our run. We had a hard time running inside against them. And Easton played like a champ.”
After the opening drive went nowhere for the Tigers, St. Paul’s took over on its own 18 and moved quickly.
On third-and-11, O’Krepki hit Marcus Gaines on a short pass. Gaines then cut inside for a 59-yard gain to the Hahnville 27. Two plays later, O’Krepki hit Jalen Mc Clesky for a 23 yard gain. Two plays later, O’Krepki found Ben Anzalone all alone in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. Grant Hebert’s PAT put the Wolves ahead 7-0 with 5:21 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers could not respond, gaining only 1 yard on their next possession.
The defense then seemed to have the Wolves stopped on their next drive. St. Paul’s had fourth-and 4 at the Hahnville 29 and lined up, seemingly to try to draw the Tigers offsides. But O’Krepki dropped back and hit Anzalone again for the score. Hebert’s PAT made it 14-0 with :54 remaining in the quarter.
But in the second quarter, Hahnville woke up. The defense forced three St. Paul’s punts and, despite a huge turnover, the offense nearly caught up.
After the defense held the Wolves to four-and-out, Hahnville got the ball on their own 31 with 40 seconds remaining in the half. With a hurry-up offense, the Tigers got to the 23-yard line where with two seconds left. Craig Ford then kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired.
St. Paul’s took advantage of another Hahnville gaffe to score its third touchdown. On third-and-9 at the Hahnville 22, Melancon was sacked and fumbled. Both teams kicked the ball around before it went out of bounds at the Tigers’ 2. Hahnville punted from there, but Gaines returned it back to the 2. From there, Ed Duplessis scored with 4:12 remaining.
But after that, Hahnville dug in. Ford added his second 39-yard field goal just before the end of the third quarter. And in the final period, St. Paul’s ran a total of eight plays for minus-11 yards.