Nick Saltaformaggio’s debut as the Hahnville football coach was pretty much all he could have imagined it to be Friday night.
The new head coach was all decked out in his favorite colors — purple and gold — but it was really his new team that was looking good. The Tigers manhandled the Southern Lab Kittens on the way to a 42-12 victory in the first game of the annual Ed Reed River Parishes Jamboree at Destrehan. Destrehan and Lutcher played in the nightcap.
First-year starting quarterback Mike Neal led Hahnville’s new triple option veer offense to virtual perfection, pitching and tossing to a host of running backs for 298 yards rushing. He passed for two more scores. Ricky Preston took nine pitches for 122 yards and hauled in one 22-yard pass for a touchdown. Bradley Aucoin ran for 50 yards and a touchdown. Devonte Cravin ran for 47 yards and a score.
Neal also ran for 16 yards and a pair of short touchdowns. The junior first-year starter also showed he has solid passing game, throwing for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns, one to Preston and the other to Brandon Singleton.
“He is special,” Saltaformaggio said. “He is really, really special. People are going to know who he is in about four weeks.”
The rest of the Tigers team isn’t bad either, if Friday night was any indication.
“I told people we have a good football team,” Saltaformaggio said. “The triple option is hard to handle . It makes for a physical football team. But we have a lot of corrections and a lot of things to iron out, but that’s what the jamboree is for. We have a good football team, we’re going to get better and (we have) Salmen next week.”
The Tigers scored on their first two possessions, while holding Southern Lab to just 12 plays on their first three. The Kittens would not earn a first down until 44 seconds remained in the half. Southern Lab could only watch as the Tigers rolled up a 35-0 lead in the first 14:57 of the half. The Tigers first touchdown came on an option pitch from Neal to Cravin that worked to perfection. Cravin cut outside and ran for a 39-yard score. On the second possession, Neal drove Hahnville from the Southern Lab 36 to the 2, keeping the ball himself for the touchdown with 9:36 to play in the first half. The Tigers scored three more times in the first half to take a 35-0 lead.
But after Hahnville’s fifth touchdown, Southern Lab finally broke through when Joseph McWilliams returned the kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown as time expired. The 2-point try failed.”
Southern Lab managed to move the ball a little better in the second half, earning five first downs. The Kittens finished with 73 yards of offense thanks to 76 passing yards from quarterback Bladrick Veal. He connected with Xavier Bell on a 13-yard pass in the second half.
“I thought we came out flat in the first half,” said Southern Lab coach Nakia “Nick” Mitchell, a Destrehan graduate who was glad to step in to replace St. James when it withdrew from the annual River Parishes showcase.
“I thought we played better in the second half. We’ve got a lot of young kids who got a chance to play.”