NCHS football program is looking for a new head coach

Natchitoches Central High School is parting ways with head football coach James Wilkerson following his third season. (Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Natchitoches Central High School is advertising for a new head football coach, officials said Tuesday after confirming James Wilkerson will not return following his third season leading the Chiefs program.

Wilkerson, a longtime assistant coach at Shreveport’s Byrd High School, had a 10-19 record that began with a winless 2020 program in the midst of the pandemic, then peaked with a seven-game winning streak opening the 2021 season.

The Chiefs lost junior quarterback B.J. Young to an injury and did not win again that fall, finishing 7-4 with a first-round playoff loss to Baton Rouge-Woodlawn. Young got hurt again in preseason this year, and the Chiefs struggled before picking up a pair of district wins over Southwood and Captain Shreve after he returned in October. NCHS wound up 3-7.

The 7-4 season in 2021 was the first winning record for Natchitoches Central since 2012.

Parish superintendent of schools Dr. Grant Eloi and NCHS principal Micah Coleman composed a press release:

“Coach Wilkerson is a fine man and role model. Dr. Grant Eloi states, ‘I want to personally thank Coach James Wilkerson for his years of service to Natchitoches Central football. I appreciate his hard work and the impact he has had on this school system and our community overall. Natchitoches Central football is moving in a new direction, and we will immediately begin looking for a new head coach.’ “

Officials met with Wilkerson Monday. The coach shared the news in a meeting with NCHS players Tuesday and it soon landed on GeauxPreps.com’s Twitter account.

NCHS posted an ad for the position Tuesday afternoon, with the vacancy open until Dec. 22, said Coleman. He hopes to have a new coach in place perhaps when classes resume after the holiday break.

“We’re going to leave it at we appreciate everything Coach has done, and I think the world of him as a man, as a person. We just feel moving forward for the future of our football program, the best thing for us to do is to seek a new direction,” said Coleman.

“We want somebody who has a very strong vision for winning. Somebody who understands the importance of the community and the marriage to high school football in our community. Somebody who’s able to grow not just the program, but the relationship of our football program to the community,” said Coleman.

“We’re going to get the right guy, and we’re going to have a winning football program year in and year out. That promise I can make you,” he said.

Although the football program has suffered through many losing seasons since its last sustained success in the late 1990s, NCHS has benefited from the recent construction of a football-centric fieldhouse.

“Our kids are no different than what you find in highly-successful programs around the state. We’ve got to instill from a young age a culture and expectation of doing things the right way. There is the right coach out there who is going to help us create that kind of environment,” said Coleman.

“We’re talking about a long process, years and years. We’ve got to have a long-term vision in front of us to help determine what our short-term goals are. Obviously the first goal is to go find that coach who is going to be able to get that job done. I’m not prepared to say anything more than that, but I can promise he’s out there and we’re going to get him.

“The community may have to be patient for just a little bit, but it’s going to happen,” said Coleman. “Our obligation is to make sure we provide kids with winning experiences, and you try to make the best decision you can in order to do that.”