St. Charles Parish football fans were lined up well before 5 p.m. to secure a seat for Friday night’s showdown between rivals Hahnville and Destrehan. By 6 p.m. the stands were overflowing with folks waiting for the 7 p.m. Kickoff at Destrehan.
But it wasn’t until after halftime that this one was decided. Stingy defenses made both offenses ineffective in the first half. But a strong second half helped the Wildcats pull away to a 24-6 victory in the 63rd meeting of these intra-parish, cross-river rivals. It was the second consecutive win for Destrehan, which now leads the series 36-24-3.
But more importantly, it puts Destrehan in the District 7-5A race at 5-0, 2-0. Hahnville fell to 3-2, 0-2.
“We’ve played five, we’ve won five and we have five to go,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux told his team after the game.
It just took a while for the Wildcats to get going. Once known for its high-powered passing attack, Destrehan now is a running team. The Wildcats rushed for 340 yards and passed for 33.
Kirk Merritt, last year’s leading receiver, rushed for 187 yards on five carries. That included a 56 yard touchdown run and a 92-yard touchdown run. Will Matthews, who was the team’s spotlight runner last season, finished with 110 yards on 24 carries.
Matthews said he didn’t mind sharing the load one bit.
“Not at all,” he said. “Whatever it takes to win.”
Merritt said, run or pass, it didn’t matter how he got the ball.
“It feels great,” Merritt said. “I couldn’t do it without my team, my blockers. I’m just happy.”
Destrehan tried to be the running team in the first half, but Hahnville’s defense wasn’t bending much. The Wildcats went into halftime with a 3-0 lead thanks to a 26-yard Randy Harvey field goal, but only 100 yards and three first downs. Hahnville fared no better, gaining 65 yards and five first downs. Between them, the Tigers and the Wildcats turned the ball over three times and punted six times in the first half.
But Destrehan changed that in the second half. Destrehan, which deferred the opening kickoff, took the second half kick and needed only two plays to score. After Matthews ran for 16 yards, Merritt broke free for a 56-yard touchdown just 37 seconds into the second half.
“Coach says the first three minutes of the second half are the most important,” Merritt said.
“We just went to the drawing board (at halftime) and came up with a few things.”
Hahnville tried to answer with one of its best drives of the night. After starting at their 30, the Tigers drove to the Destrehan 10 in 11 plays but came away empty after a missed 27-yard field goal with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Destrehan came back with its own drive, going 68 yards on nine plays with Matthews scoring from 12 yards out with 3:31 remaining. Harvey’s PAT put Destrehan ahead 17-0.
But the play of the night came with 2:30 remaining in the game when Merritt broke from the line of scrimmage for a 92-yard touchdown run which put the Wildcats ahead 24-0.
Hahnville avoided the shutout late when Austin Perrin connected with Brandon Singleton for a 55-yard touchdown with 2:04 remaining. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score 24-6.
Perrin finished 12 of 17 for 139 yards. He also led the rushing game with 77 yards on 13 carries. Singleton had eight catches for 119 yards.