NCHS heads to Benton for crossroads game in 1-5A race

NCHS senior receiver Cam Davis scored a rushing touchdown against Airline last Friday. (Journal photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN)

By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Natchitoches Parish Journal

There hasn’t been a more important time for a win recently for the Natchitoches Central Chiefs.

The Chiefs, currently 2-3 and most importantly 1-1 in District 1-5A, head to Benton in north Bossier Parish tonight and are at a crossroads under first-year head coach Jess Curtis.

Curtis, who departed a storied program he constructed at Many earlier this year, came to Natchitoches to do the same as he did in his previous position –build a championship caliber team. In 13 seasons at the helm in Sabine Parish, the new Chiefs boss brought Many out of the cellar and won three state championships while appearing in six total championship games at the New Orleans Superdome.

And, in that building process, Curtis said he believes his team is finally turning the corner.

“We are building something here,” Curtis said. “We are looking for progress each and every week and I believe we made a huge amount of progress (last) Friday night. The final score (a 41-21 defeat) really didn’t indicate what we accomplished against Airline.”

Curtis, who is old school and doesn’t believe in moral victories when his teams suffer losses, continued, “I believe we turned the corner. Our kids are really starting to believe in our system and our attitude is that of a winning team.

“We played the No. 2 scoring team in the state and battled them until the end. The only difference was in our execution. We really showed some good things both offensively and defensively and that’s all about our progress. A penalty here or a miscue there, we were just that close to beating a great team.”

This week, Curtis and the Chiefs face another team in Benton that will hit the gas offensively from the opening kickoff. The purple and gold clad Tigers are led by Ole Miss grad Reynolds Moore. Benton, 1-4 after opening with a win over Northwood-Shreveport, is known as quite a formidable opponent since stepping up into the Class 5A ranks just a handful of years back. The Tiger student section provides quite of a raucous environment for visiting opponents.

“This is a big game for us, there is no doubt there,” Curtis continued. “I have told our coaches and our kids, this really is a crossroads game for us. This can be a springboard game into the next three games at home. This one is going to be a lot of fun and we have got to go in there and get a win.”

In regards to the history books, NCHS looks for its first win over Benton since returning to the Shreveport-Bossier area district. The ledger includes four straight losses dating back to 2019. But that’s history. The Chiefs have a new field general and a new, re-energized attitude.

“I have seen a team (NCHS) that’s fighting,” Curtis said. “The Airline game was a measuring stick for where we are and we are building off of that. We can really tell our story in our first year over the next five games. Every game is winnable. Benton is another good opponent. They are a really good offensive team and they play a lot of up tempo. We just need to battle and get the win.”

The Chiefs figure to have some offensive success at Benton. The Tigers have surrendered 49 points per game, giving up over 60 in each of their last two games, to Airline and Byrd, and also to Texas High.

The Tigers have scored 35 points in each of the last two games. Senior Greg Manning runs for an average of 144.8 yards per game.

NCHS held Airline to its lowest point total (41) this season. Chiefs’ sophomore Owen Smith is one of five north Louisiana quarterbacks who has passed for more than 1,000 yards with 1,113.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in Benton.