BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports
HAUGHTON – Control the clock.
It’s Natchitoches Central’s offensive game plan every week, but the Chiefs have diversified ways in how they control the clock as NCHS heads to Haughton on Friday.
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The Chiefs (3-5, 2-3 District 1-5A) had been largely reliant on running back Jeremiah Miles to run the ball during long, meandering drives.
But when Parkway keyed on Miles and limited his effectiveness, NCHS turned to healthy quarterback Brian Young and receiver Camryn Davis to pick up the running slack.
Young topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time this season (103 yards on 11 carries) and Davis pitched in 58 rushing yards on seven touches as NCHS led for most of three quarters before a late Parkway surge carried the Panthers to a 37-22 win this past week.
Miles, who is averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game, was held to 36 yards on 12 carries.
“It is huge to have multiple guys who can run the ball,” said NCHS James Wilkerson. “We want to run the ball to control the clock, so when all three are clicking or others step up when teams take one out, it is key for us to be successful.”
NCHS may have another helper when it comes to ball control – the weather.
Expected rain washed many area games to Thursday, but Haughton (4-4, 2-3 District 1-5A) was one of a handful of area schools who decided a forecasted inch of rain wasn’t going to move its game.
But when you have a quarterback named Colin Rains, you don’t think twice about moving a game because of weather.
The Chiefs will be looking for any help when trying to slow down a Haughton offense that rained down 71 points this past week – in a loss.
Haughton held a 56-42 lead after three quarters before Benton dropped 36 fourth-quarter points en route to a 78-71 track meet win. It’s believed to be the second-highest scoring game in North Louisiana football history, according to GeauxPreps.com. The 149 combined points is one shy of the believed record of 150 combined points (Montgomery 90, Northwood-Lena 60 in 2019).
Benton running back Greg Manning scored a school-record eight touchdowns to pair with his 278 yards.
Haughton running back Tyler Rhoades did Manning one better (279 yards) and “only” four touchdowns.
Haughton kick returner Jalen Lewis took two kickoffs back for scores.
In a matchup of Rhoades and Miles with both quarterbacks who can run, it might almost make people forget about the forward pass – but both teams can do that as well.
Young is becoming a more consistent passer as he fully recovers from a shoulder injury, and he found Davis for 105 yards on nine catches and a touchdown this past week.
Rains threw three touchdown passes (two to John Ecot) en route to 126 passing yards.
NCHS arguably played their best three quarters of football this past week, and Wilkerson said his team is aiming for a consistent four quarters.
“I think this team has shown major improvement over the past few weeks,” Wilkerson said. “I am very proud of them for the work and effort they are putting in. The Parkway game was a tough one because we did what we talked about doing all week long against them for three quarters. We just couldn’t finish.”
A strong finish to the season is required if the Chiefs are to return to the playoffs.
NCHS enters this week at No. 34 fighting for one 28 Division I Non-Select spots while No. 24 Haughton is trying to keep its playoff spot.
“We are going to have to control the clock again with our run game and be able to hit passes when we decide to throw them,” Wilkerson said. “Haughton is physical and well-coached. I have always been impressed with the job that (Haughton coach Jason Brotherton) dos, and you can tell that by how hard his teams play.”
CREDIT: Kevin Shannahan/NPJ Sports