By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
Early Thursday morning, Natchitoches mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. was checking his social media when a Shreveport-Bossier Journal headline on Facebook jumped out at him.
“Many’s Curtis is new Natchitoches Central football coach.”
The mayor, a proud 2004 NCHS graduate and an avid sports fan, knew all about Jess Curtis but had no clue about the hiring. He devoured the story and immediately fired off a one-word text to Natchitoches Parish schools superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi.
“My word was simply ‘HUGE’ in all caps. It’s a huge move to get somebody like Coach Curtis,” said Williams, a junior high teacher and coach before getting elected mayor two summers ago. “It’s going to change our program hopefully for a very long time. I’m very pleased.
“He’s going to create a winning culture. It’s a major move for us as a high school, as a community, for our kids, and I know he’s going to bring a level of expectation and a level of discipline that will set a great tone,” said Williams.
A mid-afternoon announcement on social media officially confirmed the news – that Curtis, the architect of one of Louisiana’s most dominant high school football programs in the past decade, had accepted the task of elevating a long-struggling football team into a consistent winner and championship contender.
In his 13 seasons leading his alma mater’s program, Curtis went 142-32 (.816) with state championships in 2014, 2020 and 2022, three more state runner-up finishes (2013, 2019, 2021) and another three state semifinal berths (2016-18). The Class 2A Tigers have won 50 of their last 53 games while making four straight state championship games, and are 6-0 in that stretch over Class 4A or 5A opponents.
Moving 25 miles east to NCHS, Curtis takes over a Class 5A program with only two winning seasons in that span. The Chiefs have not had consistent success since the mid-and-late 1990s, highlighted by a state semifinal appearance in 1996.
It was a stunning hire that captured statewide attention Thursday. Nearly 46,000 Twitter users clicked on the @s_bjournal account to read the story. The Facebook post was shared 93 times. Numerous other state and regional media outlets made their own social media posts about Curtis’ move.
“I’ve never been more surprised by coaching news than I was today,” said KTBS-TV sports anchor Alex Anderson.
Veteran Chiefs radio play-by-play announcer Steve Graf, who played professionally in the USFL in the mid-1980s, praised the move.
“So excited to see Natchitoches Central hire a high-quality football coach in Jess Curtis. He has more than proven himself as a quality coach but more importantly as a developer of talent. He knows how to build a program,” said Graf.
“I hope and encourage officials at Natchitoches Central to give him their total support in order for the Chiefs to return to prominence as a 5A football program,” he added.
The reaction in Sabine Parish was mixed, with some Many fans disappointed and even upset about their coach’s departure. But plenty of support was expressed on social media or in texts expressing gratitude for Curtis and sending him best wishes at Natchitoches Central.
Former Sabine Parish school board president Buddy Wood has a longstanding friendship with the new NCHS coach, and has been the public address announcer for Many home games for years.
“Jess and I coached Little League baseball together for seven years back in the mid-to late ‘90s and it was evident then he had a remarkable love for kids and young men. He wanted to help them succeed. He has a passion for winning but a greater passion for doing it the right way,” said Wood.
“But his greatest passion is teaching respect and having young men represent themselves and their families, their coaches and teammates with class. It’s spurred a remarkable winning formula at Many High School and created community support on a remarkable level. I expect the same result will come at NCHS and in the Natchitoches community.”
NCHS will introduce its new football coach to the media just after lunchtime today, and has invited supporters to meet Curtis at the Chief Dome gym on campus tonight at approximately 7 o’clock between the girls and boys home basketball games against District 1-5A foe Haughton.
“As a district, we want to excel in everything we do, whether it be academics or athletics,” said Eloi. “Coach Curtis, with his track record of leading young people, gives our students the opportunity to achieve success both on the classroom and on the field.”
NCHS principal Micah Coleman was ecstatic.
“It is hard for me to contain my excitement for our student-athletes, our athletics program and Natchitoches Central High School. Coach Curtis is a winner in every phase.
“One of the things that excited me most was Coach Curtis’ passion and competitiveness within his LEAP 2025 scores for U.S. History,” said Coleman. “Coach Curtis wins in the classroom, he wins the hallways, therefore he wins on the field.”
The NCHS announcement noted that Curtis’ son, Jesse, a key figure on his Many staff, will be the strength and conditioning coach for the Chiefs.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Jess Curtis at Many|