Ex-NCHS, St. Mary’s coach Wilkerson joins powerful Calvary football program

FRESH START:  Former Natchitoches Central head football coach James Wilkerson (center, maroon shirt, at the 2022 NCHS Homecoming pep rally) has landed a job with one of the most successful prep programs in Louisiana. (Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN, Natchitoches Parish Journal)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Former Natchitoches Central head football coach James Wilkerson is joining one of the premiere high school football programs, and most successful head coaches, in north Louisiana.

Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport has announced the hiring of Wilkerson by veteran head coach Rodney Guin. Wilkerson, highly-regarded for years as an offensive assistant at Byrd High in Shreveport before spending the last three seasons at NCHS, will coach the Cavaliers’ offensive line.

Guin is one of the state’s most respected head coaches. Previously the long-time head coach at Haughton, Guin has a 181-74 overall record which is third all-time in Caddo-Bossier.

Guin guided Calvary to a state title in 2020, winning it at Turpin Stadium in a high-scoring thriller with Ouachita Christian.  He took the Cavaliers to the semifinals in 2021 and 2019 after making it to the quarterfinals the three previous years (2016-18). They were beaten in the state quarterfinals in 2022.

He is 55-17 in six seasons at Calvary.

Wilkerson worked for another highly-accomplished head coach, Mike Suggs, at Byrd, coaching running backs. He took over a long-struggling NCHS program just weeks before the COVID pandemic struck in 2020, but once he had a full year including spring practice and an offseason program, the Chiefs had a massively successful 2021 campaign.

They broke into the LSWA state Class 5A top 10 rankings for the first time this century while soaring to a 7-0 start before a season-ending injury to quarterback Brian Young. Huge crowds attended home games at Turpin Stadium, and followed the Chiefs on the road, in numbers not seen since the powerhouse teams of the late 1990s.

Wilkerson coached a pair of 1,000-yard running backs, Caylin Demars and Jeremiah Miles, in his last two years with the Chiefs. His combined 10-11 record in those seasons was the best two-year stretch by NCHS this century. After a season greatly hampered by another injury that sidelined Young for the first five games and limited him for another two, Wilkerson and NCHS parted ways before Christmas.

Wilkerson has 20 years of high school coaching experience, including a couple of seasons as head coach at St. Mary’s not long after he graduated from Northwestern State.

“His reputation as a coach, and more importantly as a man of God, are exciting additions to 9333 Linwood Ave.,” said a Facebook announcement by the school through its Calvary Touch Down Club page, with the post titled “How can (our) incredible staff get any better?? Boom! LIKE THIS!!!!!!”

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com