NCHS trending in right direction with key matchup at Parkway looming

Natchitoches Central bowed its back in a 30-17 win against Captain Shreve and aim to hand Parkway a second straight loss after the Panthers stumbled for the first time this past week against Byrd.

BY MATT VINES/Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES – Natchitoches Central enters this week’s matchup against Parkway with renewed confidence after a convincing win against Captain Shreve.

Parkway (6-1, 3-1, District 1-5A) is coming off its first defeat of the season in a shellacking by Byrd.

The Chiefs (3-4, 2-2) hope that these trends continue as they make their second of three straight road trips in a seven-game district schedule that features five road games.

“Yes things like that do factor in,” NCHS coach James Wilkerson said when asked about whether an opponent’s perceived state of mind enters into his staff’s preparation. “That was a tough loss for (Parkway). Our district is very tough, and if you don’t have your ‘A’ game, anyone can beat anyone.”

While perhaps not their ‘A’ game, the Chiefs put together their best game of the season in a 30-17 win against a Captain Shreve squad that was missing a host of starters, including three key offensive contributors.

But the Chiefs won’t have any sympathy as their starting quarterback Brian Young missed the season’s first four games and wasn’t full strength in the next two contests.

Young had his best effort of the season by far, passing for 192 yards on 10-13 with two touchdowns and adding 48 rushing yards. In his first two games, Young combined for just 11 passing yards in his first two appearances and wasn’t a running threat either while sharing time with sophomores Adam Guillet and Lannon Collum.

The return of receiver Camryn Davis, who missed the Week 6 contest against Benton, was a huge boon for the offense as he accounted 131 of his 147 receiving yards in the first half.

“Brian is getting better and better each week, and he is working hard to getting back into game shape each day,” Wilkerson said. “That win was a big boost for our team – we needed that one. It also gives our players some confidence for the rest of the season.”

The Chiefs offense will face a Parkway defense that’s been the backbone of the 6-0 start.

Before surrendering 39 points to Byrd’s power rushing attack, Parkway had held all six opponents to 20 points or less with shutouts of Red River and Bossier. The defense traveled into district play, holding Haughton and Shreve to 14 and 13 points, respectively, and Southwood to six points.

“The defensive line is their strength, and they play hard and fast,” Wilkerson said.

Chiefs running back Jeremiah Miles and the offensive line can counteract Parkway’s front with a successful rushing attack. Miles’ 854 rushing yards is within reach of the 1,000-yard mark helped by two straight efforts of more than 150 rushing yards.

NCHS’ defense experienced a bit of a resurgence this past week as they dominated the middle portions of the game after giving up an early Shreve score.

The Chiefs had allowed Airline to score 46 points and Benton 62 points.

“Our defense played hard the entire game, and it was just great effort and hustle for 48 minutes,” Wilkerson said. “I was very proud of them for the way so many guys stepped up.”

The Chiefs kept their playoff hopes alive with the Shreve win, and NCHS could further create chaos in the District 1-5A standings with a win. Airline (4-0), Benton (3-1) and Parkway (3-1) are the only teams who haven’t lost multiple games, and NCHS could still earn a share of the district title should the top teams falter, much like Parkway did this past week.

In the Division I Non-Select ratings, NCHS improved to No. 35 in the race for one of 28 spots in the new playoff format. The tough district will naturally improve the Chiefs power standings, and 2-3 wins in the final three weeks of the regular season bode well for NCHS to make a return playoff trip.

No. 12 Parkway is angling for a first-round home playoff game.

Photo: Kevin Shannahan/NPJ Sports