The Natchitoches Central High School football team takes the field for a state playoff game for the first time in six seasons when the Chiefs kick off tonight at 7 in Baton Rouge against Woodlawn’s Panthers.
NCHS won its first six games of the season, but has lost the last two. Those outcomes, partly due to injuries to starting quarterback Brian Young, denied the Chiefs a home playoff contest.
But a winning record and a playoff berth are quantum leaps forward under second-year coach James Wilkerson. NCHS was burdened by an 11-game losing streak, dating back to 2019, when this season kicked off.
A stout defense, a sound kicking game and a productive running attack have been the keys to success for the Chiefs.
Tonight’s victor will advance to a second-round contest against either No. 4-seeded Destrehan or No. 29 West Jefferson.
MATCHUP: NCHS Chiefs vs. Woodlawn Panthers
WHEN/WHERE: Tonight, 7 p.m., Panther Stadium, Baton Rouge
RADIO BROADCAST: 95.9 Kix Classic Country, pregame show at 6:45
RECORDS: NCHS 7-3, Woodlawn 5-4
LAST GAME: Natchitoches Central lost to Benton 35-16. Woodlawn beat McKinley 62-0
NOTES: Natchitoches Central has had a remarkable year, flipping the script from 2020 when the Chiefs went 0-8, to making the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game was 2002, when the 26th-seeded Chiefs beat No. 7 Barbe 19-18 in the first round.
Woodlawn has played one of the toughest schedules in the state, playing Class 5A No. 1 seed Zachary and losing by a touchdown, to beating Catholic, a private school powerhouse and the top seed in the Division I playoff bracket. Their schedule also includes games against West Monroe, Madison Prep, and University High. The Panthers only played nine games during the regular season as their first game against Jesuit of New Orleans was cancelled due to Hurricane Ida. The two teams have never matched up in football, mostly because Woodlawn has only been in Class 5A for the last four years.
The Chiefs will be without starting quarterback B.J. Young, who went out in the first half last Friday with an arm injury. Running back Caylin Demars will take the snaps for NCHS. He played quarterback in junior high. Demars is averaging 133 rushing yards per game.
Free safety Justin Aaron has six interceptions and 81 tackles this season.
The Chiefs will depart Natchitoches at 10 o’clock this morning.
Tickets are still available for fans making the trip to Baton Rouge at secure.payk12.com/school/woodlawn-high-school-/621
The Panthers have two highly recruited players, junior quarterback Rickie Collins and junior cornerback Jordan Matthews. Collins has made a verbal commitment to Purdue but has offers from LSU, Arkansas, Memphis, Tulane, Virginia Tech, Kansas and ULM. Matthews holds offers from LSU, Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia, and Cal, among others.
COACH JAMES WILKERSON SAYS: “Tough test for us this week. We will need a complete game in all three phases. Woodlawn is a good team with lots of athletes that we will have to contain.”