Chiefs’ next step could be their toughest one

Cam Davis gives the NCHS Chiefs a breakaway threat every time he touches the ball. (Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN, Natchitoches Parish Journal)

By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Natchitoches Parish Journal

The process continues.

Natchitoches Central hits the road for an epic matchup in Week 3 of the 2023 high school football season as the Chiefs are set to collide with Alexandria Senior High tonight on a newly installed turf at Butch Stoker Stadium.

That process, as termed by first-year NCHS, veteran and championship level head coach Jess Curtis, is a complete reformation of the football program over on Highway 1 South Bypass and a return to the winning ways of decades past. The Chiefs, 1-1, are coming off their 40-28 setback at the hands of Opelousas a week ago.

But all hope is not lost. Hardly any hope is lost.

“It’s a process,” Curtis said of building the Chiefs into a championship program. “The kids have really impressed me because they came off the loss and wanted to see the mistakes we made. They want to get better and win the next game.

“The atmosphere here is definitely different and we are excited and working hard to win. I have told our team that we have 10 battles this season. That is 10 chances to win and keep building toward our goal of making the playoffs.”

Curtis said his team returned to practice this week focused on the mission of improving. The Chiefs fought to the last minute against Opelousas and had opportunities to win even until the final horn.

“The attitude of the kids has been really good,” he said. “I really feel like our kids have upped the ante this week. We have truth Mondays where we watch the film and see the things we didn’t get done. They haven’t been used to winning around here on a consistent basis in a while and these kids came in hungry and wanted to learn from their mistakes. I have been nothing but impressed. They took it like a team that has been used to winning and wants to get better.”

The Chiefs face a very formidable foe in the Trojans tonight. Though standing at 0-2 on the early season, ASH has risen to the top of the table in the Class 5A arena under head coach Thomas Buckman.

In those two losses, ASH dropped on opening-season loss to perennial power Carencro, 46-26, and then fell at St Thomas Moore, the defending Division II Select state champion, 49-21. The Trojans are 53-38 overall with Bachman on staff and reached the 5A state championship game under his direction in 2020.

“Coach Bachman has done a really good job with ASH,” Curtis continued. “They are very well coached. We look at ASH as a playoff team and this will be another challenge for us. It is another chance for us to see where we are in building toward the playoffs and building this program. It will be a great environment to play in. They have installed new turf in their stadium and this will be the first time they play on it. It’s going to be exciting for everyone.”

Bachman expressed nothing short of great respect for Curtis and the Chiefs as his Trojans prepare for this epic battle. ASH was forced to relocate their first home game of the season, traveling to Lafayette to face STM as the new turf had not fully been installed. However, the Trojans home field is ready to go this week and Bachman said his Trojans are focused on getting their first win on the new field.

“We are hard at work this week,” Bachman said. “The kids are resilient and battling each week. We know it’s a long season and we are focused on taking care of the here and now.”

In analyzing the matchup with NCHS, he continued, “Their size and sheer athleticism is what jumps off the screen when you look at them. I have known Jess (Coach Curtis) for a long time and I have tremendous respect for him. He is a great motivator and he has done a great job in a short time already at NCHS. We have nothing but respect for him and the teams he has coached.”

When asked about how Bachman, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Coach of the Year in Class 5A in 2020, felt about matching up with the Chiefs tonight, he simply responded, “Well…… We will find out Friday night.”