Natchitoches Central’s football team has taken control of games in the middle two quarters this season, but Friday night, the script was flipped on the Chiefs in a 35-16 loss to Benton.
After NCHS scored first in a tense 7-3 opening quarter, Benton moved on top late in the period and tacked on two touchdowns in the next two quarters to open a commanding 35-3 advantage. During that stretch, the Chiefs lost their outstanding junior quarterback Brian “B.J” Young to a broken arm, a week after an injured shoulder sidelined him for the entirety of a loss at Haughton.
The two losses to end the regular season leave the Chiefs at 7-3 overall, a breakthrough year in many respects, but dimmed by a breakdown at the finish of the regular season that will send NCHS on the road for its first playoff appearance in several seasons.
Playoff pairings will be announced Sunday afternoon by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association at LHSAA.org.
Friday night, NCHS moved on top five minutes into the game on a 29-yard Sam Maggio field goal culminating an eight-play, 27-yard drive. The Tigers responded four minutes later with a 50-yard march ending in their first touchdown, a 5-yard Greg Manning run.
Benton broadened the lead to 14-3 with a 12-play, 75-yard drive opening the second quarter, culminated with an 8-yard TD pass from Gray Walters to Pearce Russell. The Tigers took advantage of a turnover just before halftime, getting the ball at the NCHS 25 and needing only two plays to make it 21-3 on a 14-yard Walters toss to Manning with 50 seconds left before the band show.
Two more short fields were cashed in for scores by the visitors in the middle of the third quarter to build an insurmountable advantage. Benton took possession at the 20 and 24 of NCHS, scoring on one play on another Walters throw (to R.J. Moore) and a 1-yard plunge by Ethan Johnson just over two minutes later, at the 5:13 mark of the period to open the margin to 35-3.
The Chiefs did not fold the tent. An impressive 80-yard march on seven snaps ended with Caylin Demars’ 11-yard run with 1:35 left in the third. An equally solid 79-yard drive on 10 plays was culminated by a 2-yard Jeremiah Miles TD run 7:23 before the game ended.
Demars was held just shy of 100 yards rushing, netting 95 on 17 carries. Benton outgained NCHS overall, 270-211. The Chiefs were again impeded by penalty flags, with 14 markoffs for 92 yards, according to esteemed NCHS stat man Warren Massia.
The Tigers improved to 7-3 and earned a home game in the Class 5A playoffs.
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