By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Natchitoches Parish Journal
There is no easy path to win in District 1-5A this season.
The northwest Louisiana high school prep football conference is thicker and more loaded with talent in 2023 than it has been in years.
With the likes of Captain Shreve, Airline, Parkway, and the list goes on, wins against these teams don’t come easy.
The Natchitoches Central Chiefs will face yet another traditional powerhouse tonight at 7 as the Haughton Buccaneers come calling to Turpin Stadium. It’s Senior Night for NCHS, which finishes the regular season next week at Byrd.
Though the season records for both combatants are not impressive on paper, the two foes are no pushovers either. The Bucs have been in the midst of deep runs through the playoffs since moving up to the state’s top classification.
“We are going to have to be on our P’s and Q’s to win this week,” NCHS head coach Jess Curtis said as he analyzed tonight’s opponent. “Coach (Jason) Brotherton has done a great job up there with his team and their record is not indicative of just how good they are. They are very explosive on offense and solid on defense. It will be another big game for us.”
Haughton is 3-5 overall on the season and 1-4 in a most competitive district. The Chiefs are 2-6 and 1-4 under their first-year head coach and could slip into the playoffs with wins in their last two regular season outings. But again, that’s a huge task considering the depth of teams assigned to 1-5A.
“I love this district because there are no off weeks,” Curtis continued. “Every team is competitive in this district. It’s a challenge every week but it’s fun to us to prepare and go out and meet the challenge. That is the way it should be and that’s the way our players should look at it. To be the best we have to beat the best. We have been so close this year.
“Looking at last year’s team, they really were not competitive in many games. This year is different. Our kids have worked very hard and they have taken the best teams down to the wire. It’s been just a play here and there that we haven’t made or this would have been a different year for us.”
But Curtis, the eternal optimist, also swallows a dose of reality in building the Chiefs program, arriving in Natchitoches just earlier this year.
“Our kids have played very well for the last several weeks,” he said. “Our players have poured themselves into preparation both on and off of the field for each game. I have been so proud of them for their hard work and their attitude. But, when it comes down to it, we are judged in the end on wins and losses.
“I feel like this team is a playoff team. Our kids have prepared like a playoff team and I can’t say enough about them. We have just come up a little short against the best of what our district has to offer. We are going to start getting the wins very soon. We are building something great here. That’s what we came to do and we are going to do just that.”