‘Hey!, I (mis)remember that!’

And yet again we find ourselves within the gravitational pull of one of the most memorable yet misremembered dates in “the storied athletic history” of Louisiana Tech.

If things go gray upstairs in a second, all is forgiven. It’s been a minute.

But any Tech fan old enough to have seen episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show live will likely have some brain cells reserved for December 4, 1982, the much-anticipated opening day of the Thomas Assembly Center. Nearly every year as we close in on December 4, someone will mention that day to me.

It was that big of a deal.

“The Lady Techsters played USC and Cheryl Miller and the guys played USL (now ULL),” my friend called to say; The Date and The Day had just happened to come up in a basketball-related conversation as the 2023-24 Bulldogs have won five straight and get a test at 5-1 New Mexico, a regular participant in postseason tournaments, Wednesday at 8 CST.

Then — and this is the part that gets confusing because, well, Father Time — he said, “And that was after Delaware had beaten Tech in the 1-AA semifinals that afternoon, I think 17-0, in the rain,” he said. “What a day. All in Ruston.”

And he’s right. That’s what happened. Almost.

Here is what actually happened that December 4 afternoon before the TAC opened with a doubleheader that night. This from Shreveport Bossier Journal writer Ron Higgins, who then was writing sports for The Times in Shreveport:

“RUSTON—By land, or rather by mud, and through the air, Louisiana Tech quarterback Matt Dunigan tippy-toed through the swampland of Aillet Stadium for two touchdowns and threw for two more scores as Tech slipped past South Carolina State 38-3 Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division I-AA South Regional final.”

It as South Carolina State that Tech played in football that day in the national quarterfinals. Then that night, USC beat the Techsters, 64-58, and the Dunkin’ Dogs lost to USL, 46-45. The crowd was 8,700; the place has 8,000 seats. More than jam packed. And it was: as a rookie graduate assistant in sports information, I was there.

The next Saturday, December 11, was also cold and rainy, and more than the week before. Miserable. That gray afternoon, Tech football lost in the semifinals of the I-AA playoffs to Delaware, 17-0. It was the final Tech game for both Dunigan — he was off to his career as a Hall of Famer in the Canadian Football League — and head coach Billy Brewer, off to a few seasons of success at his alma mater, Ole Miss.

Why so many of us often confuse the two dates might be because there was basketball at the TAC that December 11 Saturday, as there had been the Saturday before. After the football loss to Delaware, the Techsters thumped Cheyney State that night, 60-45, to win the Dial Classic. Yes, the good ol’ Dial Classic.

On December 4, Tech won in football and lost in basketball. The next weekend was the other way around.

Some other notes from those two weekends 41 years ago, as all three Tech programs were poised to make more immediate memories:

The Techsters’ loss to USC meant the end of their 59-game home winning streak. They beat USC on a neutral court in California, 58-56, later during the regular season and then, as two-time defending national champs, lost to USC in the title game, 69-67, in The Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. Big doings;

The Dunkin’ Dogs finished 19-9 and second in the Southland Conference that season but Shreveport’s Wayne Smith, Summerfield’s Karl Malone and a host of talented friends found themselves in the NCAA Tournament the next two seasons;

Many of the 1982 Football Bulldogs thawed out enough over the next two seasons to make it to the I-AA finals against Montana State at The Citadel in 1984; and,

Delaware. The Fightin’ Blue Hens haven’t been back to Ruston for football since that sleety Saturday when a dude named “Delaware Dan” Reeder slogged his way to a ball-controlling 114 yards on 22 carries and two of his less-workmanlike teammates got to score the TDs. But that seems poised to change: an announcement that the Blue Hens will become the 11th member of Conference USA is expected this week.

No news from the Dial Classic though. All quiet on the Dial Classic front …   

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

NSU hires Division III head coach, former LSU player McCorkle as coach

HEADING TO NSU:  Blaine McCorkle guided a dormant Belhaven football program to a conference championship and NCAA playoff appearance, and will try to do the same for Northwestern State. (Photo courtesy Belhaven Athletics/Northwestern State)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

New Northwestern State football coach Blaine McCorkle is unknown to virtually everybody invested in Demon football, except for one of NSU’s greatest players.

Former NFL quarterback Craig Nall couldn’t be more excited that his former LSU teammate has been hired to take over the program in Natchitoches.

McCorkle, 47, and his family will be introduced to supporters and the media at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Stroud Room, located in the Donald G. Kelly Athletic Complex. He replaces Brad Laird, one of NSU’s all-time great players, who resigned Oct. 26 as NSU curtailed its 2023 season by cancelling its final four games in the aftermath of the shooting death of junior safety Ronnie Caldwell Jr.

Northwestern has not had a winning season in football since 2008, a 7-5 record. There have been two 6-6 finishes, and two winless seasons, in 2009 and this fall (0-6). Last year Laird’s team had a 4-2 Southland Conference record.

Nall, who earned a degree from NSU after leading the Demons to the FCS playoffs with a record-shattering 2001 season, is a good friend of McCorkle – who has been in coaching for 26 years, the last six bringing a championship to a downtrodden Division III program at Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss.

He took the Blazers from a two-win team the year ahead of his arrival to a nine-win season in 2023, with  an outright USA South Conference championship – the first such title in Belhaven program history – and the program’s first berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

In his final three seasons, McCorkle led the Blazers to a 24-7 overall record. The 17-4 mark across the 2022-23 seasons marked the most wins in a two-year span in program history and helped McCorkle earn three American Southwest Conference/USA South Coach of the Year awards, including the 2023 honor.

McCorkle inherited a program that had not won more than three games in a season since 2013.

McCorkle has been an assistant coach as an offensive line coach at six FCS institutions – Delaware, Richmond, Liberty, Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga and UT Martin. Twenty of his 26 seasons as a coach have come at those FCS programs.

“The opportunity to be back at the FCS level where I’ve spent the majority of my career is something I’ve wanted for a long time,” said McCorkle. “It is a pure level of college football that plays for the right reasons. I’m excited to be back at that level. I’m also excited for the challenge of rebuilding – not building – Northwestern State because Northwestern State has been there before. The campus has a lot to offer. The town has a lot to offer. I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to restore a program a lot of people take a lot of pride in.”

McCorkle interviewed for the McNeese coaching vacancy two years ago, when the Cowboys replaced current LSU assistant Frank Wilson with Valdosta State coach Gary Goff. Nall said McCorkle was eager to apply for the NSU job six years ago when Laird was promoted from within to replace Jay Thomas.

“I’m really happy and excited, not only for him and his family but for the university. Northwestern State’s getting a good guy,” said Nall, who lives in the Dallas area and operates a nationwide business tutoring high school and junior high quarterbacks.

McCorkle was a walk-on deep snapper on Gerry DiNardo’s LSU teams when Nall arrived as a highly recruited quarterback from Alexandria Senior High. Nall became involved in a three-way battle for the starting job at LSU with Josh Booty and Rohan Davey, weathered the Tigers’ coaching transition from DiNardo to Nick Saban and ultimately transferred to his parents’ alma mater, Northwestern, to play his senior season.

McCorkle finished playing in 1999 and began his coaching career at LSU as a student assistant, earning his degree in 2000 before Nall left. They have remained friends since.

“Blaine has done a great job rebuilding the program that he’s been at, really turned it around and established a winning culture there,” said Nall.

“He’s fully aware of the challenge that’s going to be in front of him. He cares about his players. He’s an awesome coach and he does things the right way.”

McCorkle has no other apparent connections to Northwestern but from his days at LSU and during his time at Belhaven, he’s very familiar with the lay of the land in Louisiana and its football network. Belhaven had 13 Louisiana natives on its roster this fall. Two of his assistants recruited central Louisiana and another recruited south Louisiana.

“He knows the state, knows it well. I think recruiting-wise, he’ll do good. It will take some time but if there’s anybody who can do it, he will. He’ll get in there, roll his sleeves up, and get to work reestablishing a culture of winning,” said Nall.

“(Coming back to Louisiana) played a huge part in it,” McCorkle said. “I’ve wanted to be a Division I head coach in Louisiana for 30 years now. I came here in August 1995 and fell in love with the people, the culture and the passion that is the state of Louisiana. A big part of that culture is college football.

“We’re in a great high school football state that has great areas to pull talent from. One thing I know about the people of Louisiana is you always know where you stand with them. I want to give the people of Natchitoches what they want, earn their trust and build something special for them.”

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

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OPINION POLL: City of Natchitoches – Ends Today at 4pm

To make decisions more equitable and keep cost down, the Citizens for Equitable Government is trying to understand the community thoughts on the Rate Increase for the City of Natchitoches.

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    The poll will run until 4 p.m. Wednesday, November 30, when the link will no longer be active. The purpose of this poll is to gain insight to your opinion regarding the City of Natchitoches.

    Thank you!

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Professional bass fishing tough career choice

When I was a kid, teachers would ask the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

For boys, this can be a trick question because we never grow up.

Back in my day, the standard answers were policeman, fireman, teacher; or for the super smart students in my class they would say a doctor or lawyer. Some had even greater aspirations of becoming an astronaut, mainly since America had just landed men on the moon. But you never heard anyone say, “I want to be a professional bass fisherman.”

Another thing you never heard was that someone was going to sell water for a living. Can you imagine how your classmates would have reacted back in the 1970s if you had announced you were going to bottle and sell water? You would have been the center of all their jokes from that day forward. But it turns out, you would have gotten the last laugh, because you can become wealthy selling water.

You probably would have gotten the same reaction if you said you were going to be a professional bass fisherman. Today, this is a career choice for a select few. I have always compared it to being a professional athlete. The odds are not in your favor. Only one of every 10,000 baseball players in the country gets drafted and from that subgroup, only one of every 5,000 makes it to the big leagues.

It just might be the same odds for becoming a professional bass fisherman. There are thousands of anglers across the world who want to make it to the United States and become a professional angler. They’re not only trying to be the best in this country, but compete with anglers from Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and Australia for what amounts to about 80 slots in either BASS or the MLF Pro Tours.

Bass fishing has become an international sport and is extremely competitive for those who want to make a living doing it. Catching fish is only a small part of what it takes to fish for a living. Today, you must be good with social media, understand business, be a great salesman and be able to easily talk to people.

Now let’s look at the sacrifices you’ll have to make.

First, prepare to eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while learning how to sleep in your truck or camp out to save money. Just to enter a BASS or MLF event will cost you at least $50,000 up front and you have not even wet a hook yet. Travel expenses today with gas, hotel and food is off the chart. Hence, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and campgrounds to try and save money.

You’ll pull your boat all over the United States with constant wear and tear on your vehicle. Don’t forget, it takes gas to fill up your boat which is an easy $75 to $120 per fill-up, which includes all the practice and competition days. To be conservative, you’re probably looking at $100,000 to fish your first season. That means you need to finish in the top 50 in every event to collect a $10,000 check and break even. I’ve only known one angler to ever achieve this accomplishment.

If you’re a family man, this just might be the toughest career choice you can make as you will miss birthdays, anniversaries and some holidays. You will shed a lot of tears as you drive away from your wife and kids waving goodbye while you live the gypsy life away from home for days and weeks at a time.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams, but understand, it’s one of the toughest and most competitive career choices you can ever make. It takes a special person to make it in today’s world as a professional angler.

You will need as many sponsors as you can land, and if this is your dream, start saving money now so that when you get that opportunity, money is not an issue. Anglers who are fishing just to get a check are the anglers who will struggle. Tournament fishing is kind of like gambling. Anglers who fish to win can take chances rather than worry about just making a check so they can fish the next event.

Finally, if you’re married, make sure you have a wife who understands how tough this lifestyle can be. Today, many of the wives act as business managers for their husbands and help with coordinating appearances and interviews that pro anglers are called to do. This allows the angler to stay focused on catching fish and being competitive.

I hope I’ve shed some light on what it takes to a professional bass fisherman. It’s not an easy life, but one that can have great rewards if done correctly. 

‘Til next time, good luck, good fishing, and think long and hard if you decide to pursue a career in the professional bass fishing world.

Contact Steve at sgraf26@yahoo.com

Goldonna News: November 29, 2023

Goldonna is quickly becoming the quaint Christmas destination. They are getting ready for a holly jolly Christmas in the Park!

The 2023 Goldonna Christmas In The Park Committee has been hard at work and have continued to meet weekly to iron out the details of the 2023 Festival. The Committee is chaired by Mayor Gayle Cloud. Those volunteering to serve this year: Jade Burke, Kristen Kelly, Alyssa Taylor, Billi Jo Johnson, Mikalee Sawyer, Miranda Bates, Eugene Garner, Sharlene Cloud and Reba Phelps. There are many exciting changes that will be announced over the next few weeks.

There will be many new vendors this year ranging from sweet treats to wood working, arts and crafts.

The 2nd Annual Gingerbread House Contest will be held in conjunction with the Christmas in the Park. All ages are invited and encouraged to participate. Age 3 and under will be decorated cookies instead of gingerbread houses. All can be turned in at The Store beginning Monday December 4th through Friday December 8th. Entires can be turned in at the Town Hall until 10:00am on Saturday December 9th.

Santa Claus will be at the Town Hall on Friday, December 8th from 5-7pm for those who cannot make it on Saturday. Split the Pot tickets will be available as well as other raffle tickets and door prizes. Live music will begin at 11:00am.

The parade will kick off a littler earlier this year with a start time of 4:30. Be sure to visit the Christmas in the Park, Golodnna, LA Facebook page for up to date parade routes. the fireworks show will begin at 7:00pm.

L&A Trail Inc, Louisiana Rails, is a non-profit, family oriented multi-recreational trail that is open for horseback riding, mules, wagons, hikers, bikers, joggers, bird watchers and ATV riders.

The Board of Directors for the 2023-24 year are: Lemar Evans, Julie Evans (Vice President), Charles Carroll, Sissy Harris, Tim Harris (President), Pam Harris (Secretary), Delane Fannin, Don Wells, Reed Franklin. Not present for the meeting and photograph: Vickie Pickett and Ted Riser.

The Board of Directors held a monthly meeting where they announced they will hold a raffle to raise funds that will be dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of the trails. They will be raffling an American Hunter 225 pound gravity feeder. Tickets are $2. There will be a second drawing for a one year membership to the trail. They can be purchased from any board member before the drawing on December 9th at Christmas In The Park.

If you have news to share please email Reba Phelps at jreba.phelps@gmail.com

NSU expects to name new football coach today

FINDING NEW LEADERSHIP:  Hiring a new head coach appears imminent for the troubled Northwestern State football program. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Finally, there’s upbeat news expected about the Northwestern State football program.

The Demons are on the verge of hiring a new head coach, with an announcement expected today, according to athletics director Kevin Bostian.

The deal should be done this morning, he said, with an announcement shortly afterward and an introduction of the new coach on campus anticipated Wednesday.

That will be followed Friday morning by groundbreaking for the multi-million dollar David and Sherry Morgan Health Performance Center adjoining NSU’s Donald G. Kelly Athletic Fieldhouse, providing a long-sought modern and spacious strength training and wellness facility. NSU’s weightroom has remained the same size since the fieldhouse opened in 1979, just as women’s athletics was beginning to emerge and when football squad sizes were half of the 115-man rosters today.

While the Morgans made the lead gift of $1.5 million in spring 2022, it’s taken a while to blend state funding and related processes to reach the groundbreaking milepost.

It has officially been just over a month since NSU entered the market for a new football coach. NSU president Dr. Marcus Jones and Bostian announced Oct. 26 that the final four games of the 2023 season were cancelled and sixth-year head coach Brad Laird had resigned in the wake of the Oct. 12 shooting death of junior safety Ronnie Caldwell Jr. at a nearby off-campus apartment complex.

Northwestern, as it has done under Jones beginning with the search ending with Bostian’s hiring in January 2022, contracted with Dallas-based Bowlsby Sports Advisors to identify and vet candidates for the coaching post.

“The search process was exhaustive and thus far productive. We had a deep, talented pool of applicants from across the country,” said Bostian. “We have whittled down the number of applicants to those we felt would best fit what our next head football coach should be.

“After gauging and vetting all candidates’ interest, it became clear to us how we needed to proceed and brought us to where we are now. Our goal is to have this wrapped up by Tuesday morning.”

While some former NSU assistant coaches were interviewed for the post, the new coach appears to have no prior ties to the Demons’ program, sources said. Bostian declined to address specifics of the search on Monday.

It’s been just under seven weeks since Caldwell’s death, which remains under investigation by the Natchitoches Police Department. Two people have been arrested on drug and weapons charges related to the probe, officials said, but no charge has been filed for the slaying.

Caldwell’s parents filed a lawsuit for unspecified damages on Oct. 27 against the university, Laird and The Quad apartment complex, where the shooting occurred. There were no witnesses, authorities confirmed.

The Demons’ Oct. 14 game at Nicholls was cancelled, but the team played Oct. 19 at home in a 37-20 loss to Southeastern Louisiana. The rest of the season was surprisingly cancelled the following Thursday, Oct. 26, two days before NSU was to visit old rival McNeese for the Cowboys’ homecoming.

Jones cited mental health concerns for Caldwell’s teammates as the reason for the unprecedented move. It ended a winless six-game season.

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Dear New NCIF Board, As You Begin Your Work, I Offer Some Observations:

By Edwin Crayton/Opinion

First, congratulations. It really is quite an honor for anyone to be chosen to help improve the place where they live, work, play and worship God (and I hope you do worship him). But the Bible reminds us that to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).

You have a job to do.  On any job, the first thing anyone needs to know is who the boss is. It’s tempting to believe that the NCIF board is your boss. Wrong. All of the people who live in the city of Natchitoches are your boss.   Every single one of them of every color, class and walk of life. This is their money. It was awarded to them through a settlement after Tennessee Gas was sued because of a spill of dangerous pcbs into Sibley Lake. Put their interests first, even above your own ambitions and desires and you will do a good job. On the other hand, put your interests above theirs and you will not do a good job. In fact, you will have trouble and may even end up doing something that may cause you to be penalized, or even jailed.

Read your NCIF Bylaws. They are there to help guide you in your work. They are actually very good.  You may not have to change much.   I do believe they need to be amended to make sure people do not try to overstay their terms. Maybe there needs to be penalties or something. You figure it out.

Forget the past. Don’t live in yesterday. What happened is behind you and is over. Focus on what’s ahead.  Be careful about thinking about this as a board of “old” board members and “new” board members.  Two separate tribes. That only creates two or more groups leading to divisions.  I seem to remember the judge stressing the need to unify the board and that it is important to try to work together.  Amen, brother.  Yes, have a point of view and don’t become yes men and yes women. Disagree. But don’t try to be disagreeable. Be willing to listen to the opposing view.

Let the public have input. In the past, at quarterly meetings, NCIF made decisions before allowing the pubic to comment. This effectively froze out public involvement, That is undemocratic and unfair, especially since the money was designated to go to the public. Any governmental organization I’ve seen that handles public funds allows the public to have a say in decisions before that body takes a vote. Look at city council meetings. They operate that way. It works well. Sure, NCIF is not a government agency,  true, but it still handles funds designated to go to the public. Therefore, shouldn’t it be held to the same standard of public accountability?

Don’t try to personally profit from your time of service and you’ll excel. There are many ways to profit without taking money from a fund. Board members can help their friends or organizations they are involved with. Yes, NCIF has a conflict of interest policy, but humans are creative. In the end, trying to profit instead of focusing on serving will backfire one way or the other.  On the other hand, developing an attitude of serving the people and putting self aside, will allow the board to have the vision to fund some outstanding ideas from the people of Natchitoches.  People have come up to me and suggested marvelous ideas that NCIF could fund.

Respect the orders of the court. Judge Peters made it clear that this board, which is an interim one, will be supervised and must meet goals and follow guidelines. A master of the court, will supervise meetings.  Judge Peters left no doubt that violating his orders can land someone in jail.  But even if it were not the case, why mess around? This is a great opportunity to help improve Natchitoches and help a lot of people with dreams and assist others who are in need.

Board members who are Christians: remember to put God first and seek his advice and surrender your will to Jesus. This will also work for board members who are not Christians. Power is like a drug. It must be regulated or bad things happen. It is also addictive. One side effect is you may start to get a “big head”. If that happens, pray to God to help you. Read your Bible daily. And consider asking yourself when making decisions, “What would Jesus do?” Better yet, ask him before deciding.

I wish you all well. I am praying for your success. 

The following 15 board members have been picked by Judge Jimmie Peters (District 10 Court) to serve on an interim basis. Harold Bayonne, Brenda Milner, Rene Porter, Elton Wade, Jerry Walters, David White, Tankea Palmer, Marvin Blake Jr., Takesha Barnum, Hyman Young, Deborah Roque, Courtney Villian, Ernest Sawyer, Linda Franklin, and Helen Obioha.

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Curtis says Chiefs’ football made big strides this fall

Natchitoches Central senior Camrin Davis caught 14 touchdown passes this season, including this one against District 1-5A champion Captain Shreve in one of the Chiefs’ narrow losses. (Journal photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN)

By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Natchitoches Parish Journal

The foundation has been poured.

The frame has been installed.

Now, to begin refining and finishing each room inside of the mansion. A mansion full of victories.

The trophy case inside of the football fieldhouse at Natchitoches Central awaits those awards and other accolades now that first-year head coach Jess Curtis has completed his initial season on the gridiron at the Teepee. Under the Chiefs’ new boss, NCHS posted an overall mark of 2-8 on the year finishing 7th in District 1-5A with a mark of 1-6 in the conference.

Curtis, having collected three state championships along with a total of six championship game appearances with his former team at Many High School, has begun the building process to turn the NCHS program around. It would be a turnaround much hoped for since the better days from the 1980s and 1990s when the Chiefs contended for league championships and also made deep runs into the playoffs.

“I am proud of how far we have come in our first year” Curtis said as he began to reflect on his premier campaign. “I am most proud of the culture we built here and the kids have been very receptive to it. We have made up a lot of grounds since we arrived here.”

The Chiefs’ leader explained that the turnaround has come via the players along with everyone on the NCHS campus. Curtis said expectations were to just participate in football and win some games when he and his coaching staff arrived. Now, he and his crew expect to be contenders.

“We want to continue to build and grow here,” he continued. “I felt like we were playing as good of football as anyone in the district when we hit midseason. A few plays here and there we could have been 7-3 maybe. But, we didn’t make the crucial plays when it mattered. That’s reality. But now, our kids believe we can win, that we can be successful. I want us to challenge for district championships and make deep runs in the playoffs.”

Curtis was excited and most honest in his assessment of the 2023 season in Natchitoches. The difference between a 2-8 record and 7-3 record came down to just a few critical moments. The Chiefs jumped out of the starting gates defeating Woodlawn of Shreveport and won their first contest league play against Southwood, also of Shreveport, that pushed the Chiefs to 2-2 overall and a perfect 1-0 to begin play in a deeply talented district gauntlet.

From there, the Chiefs dropped six games in a row, four of those by less than 10 points and two of which by just one point. The Chiefs were held under 300 yards of total offense in just two contests this season.  Senior Camrin Davis caught the eye of state football enthusiasts this season, leading most of the year as the state’s top receiver before an ankle injury sidelined him late in the season. He recorded a total of 67 receptions for 1,004 yards with 14 TDs. He also tallied one punt return for a score as well.

Sophomore Owen Smith also sparked the Chiefs’ powerful offensive attack with 162 completions on 240 aerial attempts for 2,317 yards and 22 TDs with just eight picks. Junior Zion Thompson led all NCHS ground gainers this season with 861 net yards on 186 carries with 10 touchdowns.

A host of defenders to include on the standout list began with senior defensive end Braden Woods, among those who  brought praise from Curtis. Senior linebacker Fred Jackson, hurt in the scrimmage and unable to return, was praised for perfect attendance at practice and game nights without the opportunity to take the field. “That just says a lot about the young man he is,” Curtis said. “Even hurt, he didn’t miss practice or games. Our entire team and staff have that winning, successful attitude.

“I am just proud of our seniors because it was a huge change with us coming in for their final year and they stepped up and were leaders,” Curtis concluded. “I am proud of our whole team. We have set the culture, a winning attitude and we are excited about what is to come. That’s why we came here. We came to change the culture and put Natchitoches Central back on the map. We are already back to work in the weight room getting ready for next season.”

Indeed, it seems just a matter of time before the Chiefs return to the glory days of old. The culture has definitely changed for the better.

St. Mary’s bows out to dominant OCS in quarters 

St. Mary’s defenders try to tackle a Ouachita Christian ballcarrier in Friday night’s playoff game. (Photo by TOM MORRIS)

By MATT VINES, Natchitoches Parish Journal 

MONROE – St. Mary’s coach Aaron York knew his Tigers would need their best performance of the season to have a puncher’s chance of knocking out reigning Select Division IV champion Ouachita Christian on Friday in a quarterfinals matchup. 

But a high snap on St. Mary’s first possession foreshadowed the rough night ahead for the No. 6 seed Tigers. 

No. 3 OCS cashed in that turnover for the first of six first-half touchdowns in what turned out to be a 56-0 Eagles’ win. 

 “The first series definitely didn’t help,” York said. “But whether or not we turned it over there, it would not have affected the outcome of the game.

“Sometimes a team is just bigger, faster, and stronger, and tonight was that time. Give credit to OCS, they are good. Our program and our kids will keep working hard to get to the level where we can compete with them.” 

OCS’ Zach White started the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run with the short field created by the early turnover. White rushed for four first-half touchdowns, including a 49-yard score in which he broke a slew of tackles – the most concrete display of the Eagles’ superior physical and athletic superiority. He finished with 108 yards in the first half. 

OCS (11-1) scored on its first six possessions to trigger a running clock en route to a 42-0 halftime lead. The Eagles scored on their first offensive play of the second half on a Makin Lenard 80-yard touchdown run and added one more in the fourth quarter. 

The St. Mary’s offense found positive yards to be few and far between against an OCS defense that dominated the line of scrimmage. 

St. Mary’s (8-3) finished with minus-26 yards and two turnovers compared to 420 yards for OCS. 

OCS heads to No. 2 Southern Lab in the semifinals. 

But how the season ended doesn’t represent the success St. Mary’s had in its 2023 campaign or the four-year accomplishments of the senior class. 

The Tigers advanced to the playoff quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons. 

The senior class hoisted two District 1-3A titles in their four-year tenure and posted a winning record in all four seasons. 

St. Mary’s went a combined 31-11 with two playoff wins. 

“I can’t say enough about this team and this senior class,” York said. “This team is a bunch of competitors and hard workers – they are winners. 

“They had a 14-game regular season winning streak. They’ve accomplished a lot and set the bar for the underclassmen to work toward and build upon. There’s nothing to be disappointed with. They represented Tiger Nation well and can hold their heads high.” 

Daniels leads winning LSU rally overcoming miserable defensive first-half performance

ENOUGH?:  LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels led the Tigers from a 10-point deficit to a 42-30 victory over Texas A&M Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams, but it remains to be seen if his performance was enough to satisfy Heisman Trophy voters. (Journal photo by PETER FOREST)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – For one last time this season in Tiger Stadium, the inviting fragrance of another Heisman Trophy-like clutch performance by LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels overcame the stench of the Tigers’ defense doing its best to cement its place as one of the worst in school history.

Daniels, a senior playing the final home game of his two-year LSU career after transferring a year ago from Arizona State, threw for three of his game total four touchdowns in the fourth quarter as he rallied the Tigers from a 10-point deficit to a 42-30 regular-season closing SEC win over Texas A&M on Saturday.

Daniels accounted for 244 of his 355 total offense yards (235 passing, 120 rushing) in the game’s last 26 minutes, flinging final-period scoring strikes of 23 yards to Brian Thomas Jr., 21 yards to Malik Nabers and 15 yards to Kyren Lacy. He also threw a 6-yard TD to Nabers in the second quarter.

“I think I’ve made my case to get invited (as one of the Heisman finalists to the Dec. 9 awards ceremony in New York City),” said Daniels, who finished the 12-game regular season averaging 412.16 total offense yards (317.66 passing, 94.5 rushing) with 50 TDs (40 passing, 10 rushing) and 89 plays of 20 or more yards.

Though it was Daniels’ lowest total output in an SEC game this season for the Tigers (9-3 overall, 6-2 SEC West), LSU had the ball for 24 fewer plays than Texas A&M (76-52 favoring the Aggies) and for 13:18 less in time of possession (a 36:39 to 23:21 edge to A&M).

Until the Tigers’ defense was able to finally get the Aggies’ offense off the field without points on four of its last five possessions, the Aggies (7-5 overall, 4-4 SEC West) had LSU on the ropes by making good on their first 6 of 7 third-down conversions.

“We couldn’t stop them, we couldn’t get them off the field in the first half,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said. Texas A&M sophomore QB Jaylen Henderson, a Fresno State transfer starting just his third college game after spending most of the season as the Aggies’ No. 3 QB, engineered TD drives of 67, 78, 75 and 64 yards that ate massive amounts of clock.

“Our job was to sustain drives,” said A&M’s Elijah Robinson, named interim coach two weeks ago after six-year Aggies’ coach Jimbo Fisher was fired. “Our offense did a good job with that.” So well, in fact, that A&M edged LSU, college football’s No. 1 offense, 390 to 389 in total offense yards, with Henderson throwing for 294 yards and two TDs.

But in the LSU comeback, which started with Daniels’ fourth-and-four 47-yard scramble to the A&M 4 that set up running back Josh Williams 1-yard TD plunge to cut the Aggies’ lead to 24-21 with 7:51 left in the third quarter, the Tigers changed their defense.

“Coach (defensive coordinator Matt) House started using Harold Perkins as a spy (on A&M quarterback Henderson),” said LSU linebacker Greg Penn III, whose fourth-quarter interception paved the way for the Tigers’ go-ahead score on a Daniels TD throw to Thomas for a 28-24 lead with 11:52 left in the game.

When Perkins started spying Henderson, the Aggies’ left-hander couldn’t scramble for third-down conversions and was hemmed in the pocket. The Tigers were able to record four sacks, including two by defensive end Ovie Oghoufo. Perkins finished with a team-high 9 tackles along with safety Andre Sam.

“They (LSU) changed some things up in the second half and there were some plays I wish I had back,” Henderson said. “I tip my hat to them. They played a great second half on defense.”

When that happened, the Tigers’ offense found its rhythm. Nabers and Thomas LSU’s 1,000-yard receivers who had been held to a combined 4 catches for 36 yards through 2½ quarters, came alive.

Nabers, college football’s receiving yardage leader, finished with 6 catches for 122 yards and 2 TDs. Thomas, the national leader in receiving TDs, ended with 5 catches for 58 yards and 1 TD.

“They (A&M’s offense) were chewing up the clock, so it caused us to start out a little bit slow,” said Nabers, who became LSU’s career leader in receptions on the Tigers’ final TD drive. “When we got back in the locker room at halftime, our coaches got us way amped up.

“It’s our last game in Tiger Stadium. They wanted to know why were we so quiet. We should be playing with a chip on our shoulder. We had to come in the second half and prove that we’re the best offense in college football.”

Once more, Daniels, Nabers, Thomas Jr. and company did so in the third win this season (the others were 34-31 over Arkansas, 49-39 at Missouri) in which the Tigers’ offense had to find another gear to steal the win.

Because of it, LSU will likely end up in a Florida-based bowl such as the ReliaQuest in Tampa on Jan. 1 instead of a lower-tier bowl. Bowl bids will be announced next Sunday (Dec. 3) after the College Football Playoff committee reveals its four teams contending for the national championship.

Nabers will likely be among the three finalists announced Tuesday for the Biletnikoff Award which goes to college football’s best receiver.

Daniels is a virtual lock to be one of three Heisman finalists announced a week from Monday (Dec. 4). He’ll join QBs Bo Nix of Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington, who have the advantage of playing each other in the Pac 12 title game next Friday before Heisman voting closes just before the finalists are announced.

“This (A&M) is a top 10 defense in the country,” Kelly said, “and he (Daniels) threw four touchdown passes and put up 42 points. And to obviously run the way he did, I just think he strengthened his case for the Heisman.”

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Second-half surge propels Lady Demons to win

NSU’s Sharna Ayres (middle) drives in for a basket against Arkansas Baptist. (NSU photo by GARY HARDAMON)

Northwestern State’s women’s basketball team turned things up a notch in the second half on its way to a convincing 82-41 win over Arkansas Baptist on Saturday afternoon in Prather Coliseum.

Behind a dominating effort on the offensive glass, the Lady Demons (1-4) scored 51 second-half points, shot nearly 50 percent from the field and forced 18 turnovers to pick up their first win of the season. 

“At halftime we hit on the fact that we hadn’t touched on or earned a check for any of our game keys and that we needed to level up,” head coach Anna Nimz said. “We needed to be more disciplined overall and to capitalize on some energy and play more Demon basketball. They absolutely came out of the half, responded and did that.” 

The Lady Demons led from the opening possession of the game on a jumper from Carla Celaya and got out to a 12-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game with five assists on their first six field goals of the game. 

They weren’t however, able to maintain that pace allowing Arkansas Baptist to hang around most of the first half, pulling within three on an 8-3 stretch to finish the first quarter and cutting the lead down to one on two different occasions in the second quarter. 

The Demons went into the half with an eight-point lead thanks to an 8-1 run to finish the half, getting the final five points of the run from Jiselle Woodson and holding the Buffaloes without a field goal for the final 3:17. 

Woodson finished the half with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and three free throws. The Demons’ leading scorer coming into the game, Sharna Ayres, was held scoreless on seven attempts in the half, but it was her performance in the third quarter that served as the catalyst for the huge second half. 

NSU stretched the lead to double-figures early in the third quarter thanks to a pair of offensive rebounds and putbacks, one from Carla Celaya and the other from Jasmin Dixon. The offense then took off once Ayres’, and NSU’s, first made three-pointer of the game ripped the net three minutes into the third quarter, also after an offensive rebound. 

The Demons scored on six of their first eight possessions of the second half with six offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points during that stretch to push the lead to 44-29 midway through the quarter. 

“During that first half we were at best getting one person to the ball on those offensive rebound opportunities,” Nimz said. “They came out in the second half pursuing with two people and coming down and being strong with the basketball. We you can do the disciplined, gritty things it’s going to allow someone to create a second possession and that’s going to be huge as we continue through the season.” 

Ayres’ huge third quarter kicked into high gear over the final four minutes as she scored 12 of her 15 points in the period during that time including seven in three straight trips down the floor giving the Demons a 60-31 lead. 

NSU closed the quarter with an 18-0 run, holding Arkansas Baptist scoreless for the final 5:17 of the period and outscore the Buffs 31-8 in the period behind a 55 percent shooting effort from the field. 

“I noticed that I was rushing my shot a little in the first half,” Ayres said. “I just needed to take my time with it and they started falling.” 

The Demons kept the foot on the gas the rest of the way collecting 17 offensive rebounds in the second half to finish with 25 for the game, five more than they had on the defensive glass. They finished the game with 27 second-chance points. 

“We were hungry in that second half,” said Jenny Ntambwe, who nearly picked up her first double-double with a team-leading 16 points and eight rebounds. “We were going at it, boxing out and not taking anyone lightly. We went out there and went after the ball.” 

She had 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field in the second half with four rebounds. 

“Once I’m able to get in my comfort zone I stay in it longer,” Ntambwe said. “I have everything that I need so it’s just being confident and going out there and doing me.” 

Ntambwe and Ayres both finished in double figures with Woodson, Jasmin Dixon and Jordan Todd all with nine points on the day. The Demons got 34 combined points from their three primary post players. 

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Blessed: Natchitoches Gives Thanks

During the fourth week of November the world seems to slow down for a long weekend filled with family, friends and yes, food! It is always a beautiful pause to a busy year and a time to reflect on what you are truly grateful for. Some may give thanks for having their whole family together for the holiday while others may give thanks when the visiting family leaves. We are all different, but we are all thankful for something.

I spent the last couple of days talking to local community members and community leaders to see what they are most grateful for this Thanksgiving. There was no hesitation when asked to share why they are giving thanks this year.

Billy Joe Harrington, Natchitoches Parish District Attorney
“I am thankful for my family, friends, Natchitoches Parish District Attorney Staff and those that strive for the betterment of our parish.”

Dr. Grant Eloi, Natchitoches Parish School Superintendent
“I am most thankful for my family, but a close second is the hard work and dedication of all the members of our district who are continually making Natchitoches Parish School Board the district our community deserves.”

Ken Hale, BOM Bank President & CEO
“I’m thankful for all the graces God allows me each and every day. I’m the most blessed man ever. I’m thankful for my wife and kids, my health, the support of the community for BOM and all my fellow BOMers. Life’s great and I try to take nothing for granted.”

Tommy Rush, Pastor of First Baptist Church
“I would have to say that I’m most thankful for the undeserved blessing of having a family that taught me about Jesus. I’m extremely grateful for a father and grandfather that lived humble and faithful lives and they poured their lives and faith into my family.”

Katrice Below, Vice President BOM Bank
“I am most thankful for God’s grace.”

Justin Rhodes, Rhodes Properties & Development, LLC
“I am most thankful for Facebook. As stupid as that sounds. I love it. It keeps me connected with friends and family who I can’t see on a regular basis. They see me. I see them. They see my family. I see theirs. It keeps me chasing pictures with my wife and kids. It keeps me chasing the next adventure whether it be catching sharks or cooking pizza. And for that next hashtag.”

#Blessed (the author added this to compliment the above quote)

Michael Gillie, Chef/Owner Bayou Soul
“Health, family and to be alive!!! It’s a blessing to be amongst the living.”

Dustin Dauzat, Director of Development Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce
“I’m grateful for my faith, a dedicated and supportive wife, four wonderful, healthy children, and a job that allows me to make a positive impact on our community.”

Nicole Gray
“For me, Thanksgiving is often a time of reflection on the goodness of God and how far he’s brought me. I’m most thankful for the love of family and friends, who I am blessed to be surrounded by each year.”

Micah Coleman, Principal of Natchitoches Central High School
“I have so much to be thankful for. Psalm 118. I am thankful for a merciful and forgiving God. I am thankful for a city and community that I believe God has chosen for his favor and for the opportunity to work with our children and leaders to make this a God-fearing place. I am also thankful for our board and district leaders who love Natchitoches as much as I do!”

Billy Benefield, Natchitoches Parish School Board President
“I am thankful to live in a country that allows us to worship the Lord in our own way. I am thankful for my wonderful family the many blessings they bring to me. I am thankful for my health and that of my family also. I am thankful to be able to serve on a board that sees the big picture and works together in support of all the children in Natchitoches Parish.

Silivini Esparza, Owner Partner Nicky’s Mexican Restaurant
“This year I am most thankful for God, my family and friends.”

Rebecca Blankenship, Executive Director, Cane River National Heritage Association
“This holiday season I am most thankful for my family and friends- my village, whom I love sharing life with. I am also grateful to call this community home. This year I have witnessed many acts of kindness and extraordinary acts of service by folks who are passionate, selfless, and above all, dedicated to making our communety better. Their actions are a reminder to me that our blessings come in all different sizes and shapes.

Steven Harris, Pastor
“I’m thankful for my vertical relationship. That God would look beyond a multiplicity of faults and see my needs. I am grateful that he would send his only son to save me. I am thankful for my horizontal relationship. I don’t take for granted all of the people that God has placed in my life. My wife, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, In-laws, spiritual family, school board family, friends, and foes. Lastly, I’m thankful for circumference relationship. I thank God for my health, strength, and everything around me.

Angela Lasyone, Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen
“I am most thankful for my family. My sister, Tina and brother-in-law, Dwight. There is only three of us but taking care of each other is of utmost importance. I am thankful for two 13 year old fur babies, Cooper and Abigail. They are great to talk to after a long day! My closest friends who are always there, giving me the added strength that I need to get through the long hard days. I am also thankful for all my employees who work daily to keep Lasyone’s wheels turning to help me continue our tradition for 56 years. And always thankful for all customers because you are the reason that we have been so blessed to continue our legacy for so many years.”

It is no secret that Natchitoches, as a community, has seen it’s fair share of ups and downs and tragedies this year. One might would say it has been a tough one for us. But, one thing remains. Well, several things. People choose to live here for the community and the sense of community. We are all thankful for Natchitoches and it’s people, the many faces that make our town what it is. We are surrounded by people who constantly want to invest in the improvement of our town, our school system, our roads, and our quality of life. I am very thankful for the many amazing people who God chose to reside here.

Prayers for a town are never wasted prayers. Keeping praying for Natchitoches, God has great things in store for us, his people are proof of this.

“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you prosper.” – Jeremiah 29:7