By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Natchitoches Parish Journal
The Natchitoches Central Chiefs have been knocking at the door in the realms of District 1-5A football this season. Is it time now for head coach Jess Curtis’ crew to kick in the proverbial door and establish ground in a district filled with powerhouse teams — or will the Chiefs just keep knocking?
NCHS, 2-5 overall and 1-3 in 1-5A in Curtis’ first year at the helm, have battled the league leaders down to the wire but failed to finish. The Chiefs had district leader Captain Shreve (No. 1 statewide in current Division I Select power ratings) on the brink a week ago but fell short to the Gators 32-24. It was a similar story as the Chiefs were extremely competitive against Airline (fourth in the Division I Non-Select power ratings) and at Benton – where they overcame a huge deficit, took a lead midway through the fourth quarter, only to lose it late.
Tonight, Parkway of Bossier Parish comes to Turpin Stadium. The Panthers, not picked by analysts to finish much above the middle of the pack this season, have quietly risen to just one win shy of the top spot of 1-5A. Head coach Coy Brotherton’s squad sports a 6-1 overall mark while holding at 3-1 in the district. The only blemish on the Parkway record is a decision at the hands of Captain Shreve.
“I have been really proud of our players over the last three weeks,” Curtis said as he looked back over a three-game skid. “Our kids are starting to understand what our coaches are teaching them. Film study and preparation on and off the practice field is starting to show the results on the field that we are after. Last week was a good game for us. Like the last three weeks, it came down to just three or four plays going our way.”
Curtis was quick to add, “But, honestly, I am tired of playing teams close and tight. We need to go out and get it done now, to start getting those wins that we let slip away.
“They always said there was huge talent here (at NCHS). We have definitely discovered that. When talent prepares, talent wins. We have to continue to prepare and start making those few plays that make the difference. That’s what winning teams do.”
After kicking off the season 2-2 overall and earning Curtis’ first district win as the Chiefs’ new boss man, NCHS has hit the skids over the last three weeks against the district’s top opponents. The maroon and gold face yet another big challenge in Parkway and Curtis believes his Chiefs are ready for prep fans to take note of their progress.
“We have seen some real growth over the last three weeks,” Curtis concluded about his team. “We are right there on the doorstep and we just need to start closing the deal. It is now time for us to turn these games into wins for us. It’s there for the taking and we just need to go get it.”
NCHS last defeated Parkway, 38-21, during the 2021 season.
In Parkway’s three district victories this season, the Panthers have outscored those opponents 90-9. Their productive offense is attributed to Brotherton, who is spread offensive minded, and has had successful coaching stints on staffs previously at Airline, Plain Dealing and Captain Shreve before being elevated to the top job at Parkway, bringing the Panthers out of the proverbial cellar.
The Panthers’ defense is their calling card. They’ve held five of their opponents without an offensive touchdown and last week shut down Byrd’s triple option running game, holding the Yellow Jackets to 67 yards rushing in a 21-3 triumph.
How Parkway addresses the two-dimensional NCHS offense will be interesting. The Chiefs boast the state’s top receiver in senior Cam Davis, who leads Louisiana with 61 catches, ranks No. 2 in receiving yards (885) and is third in TD catches (9), but with running back Zion Thompson and dual-threat quarterback Owen Smith, NCHS can pressure defenses.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. tonight.