John Ehret and Hahnville opened Thursday’s spring football scrimmage at Hoss Memtsas with few questions marks surrounding them.
The defending District 8-5A champion Patriots (9-2) return a wealth of starters on offene and defense, including nine defenders from a unit that surrendered 10.6 points per games and second-year starting quarterback Caron Baham, who registered 2,400 all-purpose yards and 30 total touchdowns.
The Tigers (9-4) relish this position, too, with 17 of last season’s 22 starters as Hahnville ushers in the second year of coach Nick Saltaformaggio’s tenure.
Though each program retains its core, some concerns linger for Saltaformaggio as well as for Patriots coach Corey Lambert.
Hahnville’s quarterback competition remains fluid as Mike Neal and Dylan Crockett vie to lead the Tigers’ triple-option offense. John Ehret is experimenting with rotations to revamp their offensive line following the departure of three graduating starters.
“This linemen group is advanced honors kids,” Lambert said. “They’re very smart. They get after it. They know their keys and their assignments. They love blocking for these guys, and they communicate well with each other. It makes our jobs easier.
Neal, who started the first three games last season before being sidelined following a collarbone injury he suffered in a triple-overtime victory against Landry-Walker, orchestrated the first two series for Hahnville in the scrimmage between the two teams and alternated with Crockett and Michael Gray the remainder of the scrimmage.
The junior tossed the lone Tigers touchdown of the spring game, connecting on a 41-yard throw to Anthony Williams down the middle of the field. It wasn’t his only highlight, though. On the second drive, Neal avoided what would have been a sack on a broken play to complete a 37-yarder on the sideline.
The offense, though, grew stagnant at times.
“Right now, we’re a very very very bad offensive football team. There’s no other way to put it,” Saltaformaggio said. “We’re pretty good on defense, though. The good thing about it is that it’s May. We’re going to have a really good football team, but it’s going to take some time. We’re going to work over the summer. I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. We’re just going to get better. We’re going to change the way we coach some of our positions, but we’re going to get better. It is what it is.”
Later, John Ehret answered.
Juwan Leonard showed play-action before launching a 60-yard touchdown pass to Dante Green. His teammate doubled the effort in a late drive.
Baham scrambled to the sideline and found Travis Jordan in the corner end zone for a 13-yard touchdown. Earlier, Baham broke for runs of 7, 9 and 12 yards while throwing for gains of 7 and 10, but the Patriots couldn’t sustain any drives or capitalize on premium field position until later in the scrimmage.
“It’s kind of hard to assess things at the moment, so what we’re doing is trying to find out how these guys play together, how they gel together, how they trust one another, how they communicate, who can play, who can do what,” Lambert said.
“That’s really all you can assess in spring.”