BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports
SHREVEPORT – Friday’s matchup between Natchitoches Central and Captain Shreve promises to be a skid-stopper, momentum gainer and possible playoff saver at Lee Hedges Stadium.
The Chiefs (2-4, 1-2) enter the matchup on a two-game slide and have dropped four of their past five contests, but quarterback BJ Young is rounding into game shape with Friday being his third game back from a shoulder injury suffered in the jamboree.
The Gators (3-3, 0-3) have had tough sledding in District 1-5A play, dropping all three contests to date.
The winner will halt their losing streak, and a Week 7 victory could serve as a platform for a surge in the final three weeks of the regular season.
“I think Captain Shreve has played some really good teams, and our district is very tough,” said NCHS coach James Wilkerson. “If you don’t bring your best game every week, you can be beat. The Gators have also dealt with some injuries.”
NCHS knows a thing or two about injuries. The Chiefs sorely missed receiver Camryn Davis as they passed for minus-three yards on just two completions this past week in a 63-15 loss to Benton.
But Davis is expected to return, and NCHS is aiming to complement its impressive rushing attack with an aerial threat as Young continues to improve after his injury.
“Cam will be back this week, and he’s a playmaker that we absolutely need on the field,” Wilkerson said. “BJ is getting better and is getting back into game shape.”
Davis has caught nine passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns in five games, serving as the Chiefs’ most dangerous big-play threat in the passing game.
Running back Jeremiah Miles owns that title in the running game as he’s averaging nearly 115 rushing yards per game with six touchdowns through six games.
Young was at the controls in 2021 when the Chiefs made the playoffs as the No. 20 seed.
If NCHS wants a return trip, the Chiefs likely need a win Friday in an attempt to boost their No. 40 power rating in Division I Non-Select.
The new playoff format features four divisions each in the select and non-select categories with 28 non-select schools making the playoffs in each division with 24 select schools earning that honor.
NCHS will get a scheduling boost in the coming weeks because of the strength of 1-5A as games against Shreve, Parkway, Haughton and Byrd will naturally increase the rating.
But wins, starting Friday at Shreve, could launch a late-season renaissance that could make the Chiefs a tough first-round playoff draw.
Defense will also be key to any playoff push, and a young Chiefs unit must learn from a stretch in which they’ve allowed three of the past four opponents to score at least 46 points. That stretch also includes a shutout of Southwood, who scored 24 points against Haughton the next week.
“We are working to improve our discipline and doing what we are coached to do and not the let the game be too big for us,” Wilkerson said. “When you work two coverages all week, and then on game night, they do something that we haven’t worked on all week, you scratch your head. They are learning and they work hard. It just takes some time to gain experience to play at this level.”
Captain Shreve’s defense has generally been pretty good with just one opponent scoring more than 25 points this season.
But that opponent was this past week’s 42-14 loss against Airline.
Shreve’s defense reined in powerful offenses in Calvary Baptist (27-14 win) and Union Parish (31-21 win) before playing admirably in losses to Byrd (25-20) and Parkway (25-13).
The Gators postseason picture is much rosier at No. 10 in Division I Select, partly benefiting from the power of its district schedule in the front half of the season.
Photo: Kevin Shanahan