FNF: Both sides of the Chalmette and Holy Cross rivalry following disaster

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NEW ORLEANS — “I couldn’t script a worse start to my career at Holy Cross. First COVID-19 and now a hurricane,” says Holy Cross head football coach Nick Saltaformaggio.

In the weeks following Hurricane Ida, the Holy Cross Tigers, like several other area football programs are still preparing for week 1.

Holy Cross will open its 2021 season the same as its 2020 season – a Friday night matchup with Chalmette.

“It’s the oldest catholic, public rivalry in the state. So, I hope Friday night is a great game. I hope we have one more point than they do but I hope it’s a great game,” says Saltaformaggio.

This rivalry is much more than a football game for head coach Nick Saltaformaggio.

“Chalmette High School… the whole school system holds a special place in my heart and really helped me launch my career. That group, that school, and that administrative team helped me launch my career and I will be forever indebted to them for that,” says Saltaformaggio.

It’s also the place where he faced one of his biggest challenges as head coach of the Chalmette Owls during Hurricane Katrina.

“We had beaten Mandeville in the jamboree that Friday night and had an excellent football team, a team that was going to compete for a state championship. Like everybody else down there in ’05 on that night, everything went in different directions,” says Saltaformaggio.

A direction that has taken him back to his alma mater as head coach of the Holy Cross Tigers.

A team Saltaformaggio says has several parallels to the Chalmette team he had before Katrina.

“The year before we were an undefeated football team that lost a bunch of great senior football players and people weren’t expecting a whole lot out of us and then we had a nice playoff run in ’04 and then lost a really good bunch of football players. We were young and really kind of putting this offense in a little more detail and I see a lot of similarities in that. So, I don’t think back then people thought a whole lot of us back in the ’05 season other than us. I’m looking at this team the same way thinking that we have a pretty good football team that no one knows about,” says Saltaformaggio.

The New Orleans Saints helped uplift the city following Katrina and now Coach ‘Salt’ hopes they will help uplift his team as they approach their regular-season opener and another rigorous catholic league schedule.

” I told them about the other day in our morning meeting that, guys you can be the team everybody thinks you’re going to be, which is a team that people don’t think is going to be very good or you can look at the Saints as an example. Here is a team that was picked in the lower half of the NFL and all they did was go out Sunday and show everybody exactly what kind of football team they’re going to be. So, I’m hoping we’re that way,” says Saltaformaggio.

Holy Cross and Chalmette play Friday night at 7 p.m.

You can catch highlights of the game on WGNO’s Friday Night Football, presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Nola 38 at 11 p.m. and again at midnight on WGNO.

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