by Taylor Williams
September 2, 2010 – Louisiana’s North Shore is loaded with talent, from Mandeville to Franklinton to Slidell. Football is as competitive there as any region in Louisiana, and this year is no exception. But even with all the big-name size, speed, and talent the North Shore boasts, there’s still room for sleepers to begin asserting themselves, as illustrated by the Archbishop Hannan Hawks. Hannan, a 1A school in Covington recently relocated to the North Shore from Merraux, has already shown flashes of talent in victorious scrimmages against False River and Ascension Episcopal.The boys from Hannan are used to the less-than-stellar depictions the local media often gives them, usually to the tune of “too small and too young to contend.” Upon entering the Hawks’ locker room, players and coaches are immediately drawn to the team’s media board, which holds every piece of obtainable negative press from local newspapers. For the Hawks, a team that thrives on being underestimated, the board is the biggest source of motivation.
But Hannan is on the cusp of extricating itself from unfavorable media spotlight, thanks to superb freshman and sophomore classes. Many of these young players already have workable on-the-field chemistry after spending years together on the Southeast Louisiana Chargers, a regional traveling team coached by Hannan’s Director of Football Operations Sean Zeigler. The Chargers have won championships on the national level, most significantly against “bigger, older, and better” teams from Texas, and now bring much of their chemistry and experience to the same high school.
In the team’s first two scrimmages, the offense showed consistent explosiveness that can’t be taught or coached, and can only be improved through experience. The Hawks are balanced between the pass and the run; thanks in part to the dual threat of quarterback Korey Zeigler, who posted remarkable numbers as a thirteen year old starter last year. Freshmen wide receivers Jason Brooks and Bruce Dimartino also start and represent important weapons in the Hawks’ spread offense, whose only drawback is lack of size up front. And though Hannan’s small enrollment dictates considerable overlap between offense and defense, the coaches believe there’s enough athleticism to keep the tempo balanced on both sides of the ball.
Hannan’s proven offensive chemistry was forecast to be its biggest asset, and still could be, although the Hawks’ defense has surprised coaches with its toughness and physicality against bigger teams. The opening scrimmages have illustrated the cohesion of the defense above all else- key sacks, good backfield coverage, hard-hitting tackles- all indicators of mental unity. Whereas the offense is still learning the system and needs tweaking, Hannan’s defense appears to be ahead of itself mentally, despite having equal youth and inexperience at the high school level.
Though the regular season hasn’t started yet, the Archbishop Hannan Hawks have already begun disproving the negative hype surrounding the size and age of their program. Head coach Pat Lambert brings 35 years of experience from both the high school and college circuits to a team that epitomizes a “forward looking attitude,” and that has already begun asserting itself on the field. If the regular season proves to be a continuation of the scrimmages, the North Shore media should seriously re-evaluate its perception of Covington’s tiniest Catholic School- perhaps to the notion that sometimes, bigger isn’t better.