Natchitoches Central scored on the game’s opening drive, and stayed within range until the middle of the second half, but the Chiefs’ remarkable 2021 football season ended with a 42-14 Class 5A playoff loss Friday night in Baton Rouge to a talented Woodlawn High School team.
The Panthers sandwiched scores around halftime to take the upper hand. After a Sam Maggio punt for NCHS was downed at the Woodlawn 1 a few minutes before halftime in a one-point game, the winners mounted an 11-play, 99-yard drive and moved ahead 21-14 just four seconds before halftime. They scored on their first series of the second half, after recovering an NCHS fumble, to build a two-TD lead.
The Chiefs defense came up with a pair of stops to keep hopes alive for a comeback, but the Panthers scored on a fumble return late in the third quarter and opened a commanding lead.
FINAL SCORE: Woodlawn (BR) 42, Natchitoches Central 14
GAME SITE: Baton Rouge, Panther Stadium
RECORDS: NCHS Chiefs 7-4; Woodlawn 6-2
NC – Chris Howard 39 run (Sam Maggio kick), 8:36 1st, 7-0 NCHS (drive 7 plays, 72 yards)
W – Clayton Adams 51 pass from Rickie Collins (Amani Givens run), 3:13 1st, 8-7 Woodlawn (drive 7 plays, 67 yards)
NC – Caylin Demars 6 run (Maggio kick), 9:30 2nd, 14-8 NCHS (drive 12 plays, 70 yards)
W – Kyle Jones 54 pass from Collins (Tate kick), 7:53 2nd, 15-14 Woodlawn (drive 5 plays, 89 yards)
W – Givens 1 run (run failed), 0:04 2nd, 21-14 Woodlawn, (drive 11 plays, 99 yards)
W – Adams 15 pass from Collins (Tate kick), 9:37 3rd, 28-14 WHS (drive 7 plays, 65 yards)
W – Ellis McKneely 31 fumble return (Tate kick), 3:23 3rd, 35-14 WHS
W – Jay’veon Haynes 60 run (Tate kick) 9:50 4th, 42-14 WHS (drive 6 plays, 69 yards)
NOTES: It was the first playoff game for NCHS since 2015. The Chiefs ended an 11-game losing skid with a season-opening victory, the first of six in a row. Woodlawn won its first playoff game since 2010. The Panthers have two juniors who are being recruited by Power 5 college teams, along with several other college prospects.
Running back Caylin Demars, pressed into playing quarterback due to the broken arm suffered last week by starter B.J. Young, netted 102 yards rushing on 24 carries and added 109 yards passing on 9 of 19 accuracy. Colby Raupp had three catches for 41 yards and Camryn Davis caught three for 33 yards.
Woodlawn outgained NCHS 500-286, with the Panthers running for 243 and throwing for 257.
Free safety Justin Aaron led the Chiefs with seven tackles and added his seventh interception of the season. Reginald Bolden blocked a field goal. Demarius Sowell also collected seven tackles and Gabe Vaughn and Fred Jackson each made six. Calvin Willis had five, while Corey Jefferson, Brandon Woods and James Jackson all had four.
Stats and scoring summary courtesy of venerable NCHS statistician Warren Massia, whose volunteer service to the school’s athletic program dates back many years.
COACH JAMES WILKERSON’S COMMENTS: “We just didn’t play well in the second half, and you can’t do that when you get to the playoffs. You have to be at your best.
“I’m very proud of the team and coaches for all that was accomplished this year. We appreciate all the support from our school and the community. I am honored to be the coach at Natchitoches Central and proud to be the coach of a team that fought back from where they were. From 0-8 to 7-4 and the playoffs is an impressive turnaround. This group had heart and determination and has put Natchitoches Central back on the football radar in the state.”