BY MATT VINES, NPJ Sports
Football has a way of bonding teammates together, and Natchitoches Central will need that bond more than ever this week as they prepare to host Benton on Friday.
The Chiefs are mourning the loss of junior receiver Robert Walker II, 16, who died in a utility terrain vehicle accident Sunday.
“Robert was a great young man that was truly loved by his teammates,” said NCHS coach James Wilkerson. “He had improved so much this year and was really stepping up for us. I was excited to see where he was going.”
Walker II, an Auburn fan, liked to pick on Wilkerson, who is faithful to Alabama. Wilkerson said the team will certainly be thinking about Walker II this week and for the rest of the season.
“He was funny and always had something funny to say,” Wilkerson said. “He’s just a great young man that will be missed. You try to honor your teammate in different ways. You focus on how football was a binding force among the players.”
NCHS (2-3, 1-1) will get a chance to play its first home district game after splitting the first two District 1-5A contests on the road.
The Chiefs blanked Southwood, 27-0, before being blanked by Airline this past week in a 46-0 decision.
But NCHS quarterback BJ Young saw his first regular-season action against Airline after missing the first four weeks of the season with a shoulder injury suffered in the jamboree.
Young shared time with the two sophomores Lannon Collum and Adam Guillet, accumulating 19 rushing yards and seven passing yards on 2-7 through the air.
Weapons Jeremiah Miles (averaging 100 rushing yards per game) and Camryn Davis (leads team with 107 receiving yards) will be key to whoever is under center.
Wilkerson said they will continue to evaluate Young each day to determine his availability for Friday.
Benton (2-3, 1-1) appeared to straighten out their early-season concerns in a 63-28 drubbing of previously undefeated Byrd.
The Tigers have scored at least 50 points in each of the last three games, but two of those were losses – 54-52 to Isidore Newman and 75-59 to Airline.
Benton didn’t have similar struggles against Byrd’s power rushing attack, something Natchitoches Central will build its offense around as the passing game continues to develop.
“Benton has a good team and is one of the most well-rounded teams that I have seen this year,” Wilkerson said. “It will be a tough game for us this week in slowing them down.”
CREDIT: Kevin Shahanan/NPJ Sports