Chiefs suffer stunning loss that damages playoff outlook

On Halloween weekend, the previously resurgent Natchitoches Central football team masqueraded as the winless 2020 Chiefs, and it was costly.

In an outcome nobody anticipated except the Haughton Buccaneers, the Chiefs fell out of a three-way tie for the District 1-5A lead as they were drubbed 35-7 Friday night.

NCHS dropped to 7-2 overall, still heading to the state playoffs but not necessarily with a home game salted away. That might hinge on the regular-season finale next Friday night in Turpin Stadium against playoff-bound Benton.

The loss dropped NCHS all the way out of the top 10 in the LHSAA power points rankings down to No. 17. The top 16 host playoff games.

At Haughton, the Chiefs played without junior quarterback B.J. Young, who had a shoulder injury that sidelined the playmaker. That, however, was only one factor in the outcome.

NCHS fumbled away the opening pooch kickoff and Haughton scored two plays later, so the Chiefs were playing uphill all night.

The NCHS defense, which has been superior this fall, was unable to bottle up the Bucs, who had shown steady improvement recently but nothing to indicate Friday night’s performance. Haughton (5-4) posted 264 total yards, 184 rushing, 127 on 16 carries by Tyler Rhodes, who scored twice.

Senior Caylin Demars did Caylin Demars things for the Chiefs, recording 164 rushing yards on 26 carries including a 35-yard touchdown that finally got the visitors on the board late in the first half. But the rest of the NCHS offense managed only four net yards.

After taking the quick lead 21 seconds into play, the Bucs doubled the advantage midway through the opening period on a 4-yard Rhodes run for a 14-0 margin. That capped a methodical nine-play, 61-yard drive.

It grew to 21-0 thanks to a bad punt snap that set up Haughton at the NCHS 4-yard line midway through the second quarter. The Chiefs came to life offensively, moving 59 yards on seven snaps after the kickoff, capped by Demars’ TD run.

But Haughton maintained the upper hand, scoring twice in a minute late in the third quarter to open the 35-7 margin. A pair of two-play “drives” lit up the scoreboard, sandwiched around a turnover by NCHS.

The visitors kept battling but couldn’t cash in. A week after producing five turnovers in a home win over Parkway, the Chiefs ran into an error-free opponent that put together its best game of the season.