It’s a banner year for the city’s high school football teams, off to a combined 9-1 start midway through the regular season.
Four of the senior standouts leading Natchitoches Central and St. Mary’s to success on Friday nights have a longstanding track record of success in the classrooms week after week. Upholding the student-athlete ideal has earned Justin Aaron, Caylin Demars, Graeme Fidelak and Gavin LaGrange special status around north Louisiana and beyond.
The Chiefs’ duo of Aaron and Demars, and the Tigers’ tandem of Fidelak and LaGrange, are among 30 superior seniors who have qualified for the National Football Foundation’s Ark-La-Tex Scholar-Athlete Watch List.
They gathered on the Natchitoches riverbank this week, with head coaches James Wilkerson (NCHS) and Aaron York (SMHS), to be saluted by Natchitoches mayor Ronnie Williams Jr., and to enjoy sharing the excitement of their seasons. It’s homecoming week for both schools – Natchitoches Central (5-0, 2-0) hosts Southwood Friday night at 7 in Turpin Stadium, while St. Mary’s (4-1) welcomes Northwood-Lena to the SMHS campus Friday at 7.
There was mutual admiration apparent as the players and coaches visited. St. Mary’s holds the No. 1 spot in the LHSAA’s power points rankings in Division IV, and Natchitoches Central is at No. 2 in Class 5A. Both teams are bumping on the edge of Louisiana Sports Writers Association top 10 rankings in their classifications.
NFF Ark-La-Tex Scholar-Athlete Watch List members must have a 3.2 grade point average or better, must be key players for their teams, and must participate in non-sports extracurricular activities at their schools.
Annually, after each season, the NFF’s S.M. McNaughton Chapter solicits nominations for its scholarship program, and as many as eight senior scholar-athletes are honored at a banquet in Shreveport. This summer, St. Mary’s Patrick Vienne was recognized as one of the eight 2020 winners.
This Watch List is designed to provide recognition for not just the ultimate scholarship winners, but all of the young men in the Ark-La-Tex, including Louisiana’s entire 318 area code and from Vernon Parish, who are high-achieving senior football players.
Aaron, also a basketball player for the Chiefs, is in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Honor Society. He hasn’t honed in on his career path but is considering being a teacher and coach.
LaGrange is a powerlifter for the Tigers who is active in FCA and Pro-Life. He plans to move to Florida or Texas and coach and teach.
Fidelak, who also is an all-district baseball player at St. Mary’s, is in the National Honor Society, Beta Club, and Future Business Leaders of America. He hasn’t settled on a college choice, but has narrowed his list to UL Lafayette, Arkansas or Texas A&M, because he wants to stay in the area. He plans to major in business.
Demars is active in FCA and other organizations at NCHS. He’s considering majoring in kinesiology to become a physical therapist, or perhaps an orthodontist, although he can’t rule out teaching and coaching.
The star tailback, who is averaging 7.7 yards per carry and has scored nine touchdowns, has an academic approach that is shared by the other three local NFF Scholar-Athletes.
“I take school seriously. I’m really good in class, and I pay attention,” said Demars. “I always have tried to be a good student.”
PHOTO: Gathered on the Natchitoches Rue Beauport riverbank are four top senior scholar-athlete football players from Natchitoches Central and St. Mary’s, along with their head coaches and Natchitoches mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. Shown left to right are Chiefs coach James Wilkerson, St. Mary’s senior lineman Gavin LaGrange, NCHS safety and receiver Justin Aaron, Mayor Williams, SMHS receiver and defensive back Graeme Fidelak, Chiefs’ tailback Caylin Demars and Tigers coach Aaron York.
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