Collins stays with Devils

Published 6:59 am Friday, February 21, 2014

Pearl River Central head football coach Eric Collins is remaining with the Blue Devils.

Collins confirmed to the Picayune Item Wednesday night that he would stay put in Carriere. He was one of five finalists announced last month for the same opening at Hahnville (La.) High School, a perennial power in South Louisiana.

“I am happy where I am,” Collins said. “It was a great opportunity, but I talked with officials from there and they decided to go in a different direction. We are getting ready for spring practice at Pearl River Central.”

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Hahnville went through a lengthy search to find its next football coach after Lou Valdin resigned in December. Principal Ken Oertling and a seven-person search committee hired Nick Saltaformaggio, an old friend of Collins, Wednesday.

“All the candidates that we interviewed had exceptional qualities,” Oertling said.

Saltaformaggio directed East Jefferson to its first state title in program history last year. The 15-0 Warriors won a Class 4A state title with a 38-28 win over Karr.

Saltaformaggio told the Times Picayune that he almost didn’t apply for the Hahnville position when he found out his longtime friend Collins also applied. Collins insisted he do so, however.

Saltaformaggio was Collins’ defensive coordinator at Archbishop Hannan and Chalmette. Saltaformaggio also replaced Collins as head coach at Chalmette. Saltaformaggio, who also was a head coach at Abbeville and Oconee (Ga.), keeps a framed 1994 article about his relationship with Collins above his desk.

“When my kids realized we had applied for the same job, they said ‘Dad I hope you get it, but if you don’t get it, we sure hope Coach Salt gets it,’” said Collins, who has known Saltaformaggio for over 25 years, said. “I feel the same way. It’s almost like my son is getting his big break. A lot of guys are passionate, but not a lot of guys are willing to work. Nick’s worth ethic is unmatched.

Saltaformaggio said he is still figuring out his coaching staff. He would like to get Collins on board, but Collins said he’s “comfortable” in his current position as a head coach.