One last run for ‘The Thundering Bull,’ Sidney Thornton

A BITTERSWEET REUNION:  Northwestern State football teammates of Sidney Thornton gathered last Friday night at Winnfield Funeral Home in Shreveport. (Photo courtesy of Jack Brittain Jr.)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

It’s Valentine’s Day, which is all about love, which makes this a perfect day to remember Sidney “The Thundering Bull” Thornton.

He was buried Saturday afternoon at Forest Park Cemetery West in his second hometown, Shreveport. He came north from Baton Rouge to play college football at Northwestern State, and changed lives the way he did it, and the way he was.

From 1973-76 in Natchitoches, and then for seven years in pro ball, he made impressions. On defenders, and people who met him. Eyes sparkle as memories flow.

Teammates gathered Friday evening, and more came Saturday to send off Sidney and support his beloved family. It was a tough end to a terrific beginning. Thornton arrived at Northwestern unheralded but awesomely gifted with ability and an Adonis physique.

“He was 5-foot-11, 245 pounds, could run a 4.5 40 in a day when that was really fast, and looked unlike anyone else I ever saw,” said teammate Jack “Britt” Brittain Jr. “He was chiseled. He was so fluid, so athletic, so powerful. We had several high NFL Draft picks at NSU in those days. Nobody took your breath away like Sidney Thornton. He looked the part and lived up to what he looked like, and everybody loved him – his coaches, teammates, people in town.”

He broke Charlie Tolar’s 19-year-old career rushing yardage record with 2,662 yards in just two years as a starter. In the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic, then played every Christmas Day in Montgomery, Ala., drawing many stars from major powers, Thornton was the game’s Offensive MVP.

He was drafted 48th overall, in the second round, by the Pittsburgh Steelers, to fit into a backfield featuring Pro Football Hall of Fame halfback Franco Harris, 1,000-yard rusher Rocky Bleier, and led by Terry Bradshaw.

Although he was Pittsburgh’s third-leading scorer (60 points) in 1979, when the Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl (second for Thornton), his top salary was just $100,000.

He played in 74 NFL games, starting 21, scoring 24 times and totaling 2,121 yards. The Steelers were at their peak, winning back-to-back Super Bowls and going 58-29 in his career.

But Thornton’s legacy isn’t measured in stats. He is remembered as a joyful, gentle, fun-loving teammate, an awesome sight to behold on campus or on the field, a mentor to younger players and to many Demons after he reached the NFL. To his wife Beverly and his children, he is missed as a doting father and grandfather, who battled fiercely as long as he could after suffering a massive stroke in September 2005 that greatly restricted his movement and speech, but not his heart, until he passed late last month at 68.

The young Thornton, recalled by old Demons:

Willie B. Mosley, cornerback: “I played with Sidney for three years. Whenever he smiled, he had that gold tooth and he lit up the room. Any time you had to hit this guy, you never hit him in the chest. You went for his ankles. He was a courageous guy who always knew where he was going and what he wanted. He was a friend, and I’m going to miss him.”

Sonny Louis, cornerback: “I remember him coming back (from the NFL) to practice and helping us out – a lot. He was a great guy. He helped Joe Delaney with his success – how to carry the ball and run the ball, things like that. One of his favorite sayings was, ‘You can’t make the team in the tub.’ He was a great guy who left a great legacy.”

Robert Brown, defensive end: “My freshman year, Sidney always said, ‘Brown, you got a lot to learn.’ I was determined to get to the quarterback. He would not let me. He said, ‘Brown, I’m going to teach you how to play defensive end,’ and he really did. He taught me how to take on a running back and drop ’em. He was a great leader, with a great smile, a very encouraging person.”

John Dilworth, defensive back: “One of my vivid memories was (in practice) when they ran a quick pitch, and I was known as a hitter – I went up and hit Sidney. Most people I hit, they fell back 3-4 feet. Sidney put me on the ground that day. I got drafted by the Dolphins, and they had a fullback named Norm Bulaich. I hit him on the goalline and knocked him out. Before that, I had told Sidney, ‘You’re going to be good up there.’ Sure enough, he was one of the toughest backs to play in the NFL.”

He was. But as pro ball’s pounding took its toll, Thornton developed substance abuse issues that dogged him for two decades, although he was a high school football coach at six schools, notably from 1985-90 in charge of rebuilding a downtrodden Coushatta High program. His Super Bowl rings were lost as collateral in a loan gone awry. Once he finally cleaned up his lifestyle, he had only a few years before the stroke put him in third-and-very long.

He did not shrink from the challenge, recalled Demon teammate Ken Meeks, who helped Thornton through rehab and his waning years.

Said Meeks: “If Sidney worked as hard as football as he did trying to recoup his life, he would have had one of those Pro Football Hall of Fame gold jackets. He had such a great heart.”

Contact Doug at

NFL REUNION:  Pittsburgh Steelers running back Sidney Thornton (38) posed with Kansas City’s Joe Delaney (37) , the Haughton native who broke Thornton’s career rushing record at Northwestern State.

Local High School Football – November 5, 2022

Natchitoches Central High School
Natchitoches Central  3
C.E. Byrd  34*
* 35 Actual Points shown on scoreboard

St. Mary’s Catholic School
St. Mary’s  55
Northwood-Lena  12
* Thursday night Game

Lakeview High School
Lakeview  0
Many  56
* Thursday night Game

All Games were their season final game.

Local High School Football – October 29, 2022

Natchitoches Central High School
Natchitoches Central  20
Haughton  56

St. Mary’s Catholic School
St. Mary’s  24
Logansport  8
* Thursday night Game

Lakeview High School
Lakeview  7
Jonesboro-Hodge  28

Local High School Football – October 22, 2022

Natchitoches Central High School
Natchitoches Central  22
Parkway  37

St. Mary’s Catholic School
St. Mary’s  62
Montgomery  0

Lakeview High School
Lakeview  0
Mansfield  37

Local High School Football – October 15, 2022

Natchitoches Central High School
Natchitoches Central  30
Captain Shreve  17

St. Mary’s Catholic School
St. Mary’s  58
Peabody  6

Lakeview High School
Lakeview  6
Red River  40

Local High School Football – October 8, 2022

Natchitoches Central High School
Natchitoches Central  15
Benton  62

St. Mary’s Catholic School
St. Mary’s  56
LaSalle  8

Lakeview High School
Lakeview  20
Winnfield  54

Memories of Natchitoches Parish swamp rekindled by Ouchley’s excellent read

I just finished reading an outstanding book, Bayou D’Arbonne Swamp, written by retired wildlife biologist Kelby Ouchley, and it got me thinking about the swamps and woods I grew up around in rural Natchitoches Parish.

The “swamp” that stands out most in my memory couldn’t really qualify as a swamp; it was a little creek that coursed through the woods at the feet of beeches and oaks not far behind our country home. Molido (pronounced Molly-doe) was where I learned to swim. It was the creek where I landed my first bass, killed my first squirrel, was victim to my first and only snake bite, and was the place where I carved my girlfriend’s name (Betty Jean) on one of those silvery beeches.

Ouchley delves deeply into the swamp where he grew up and currently lives by “offering a kaleidoscopic view of Bayou D’Arbonne swamp that reveals its unique past and distinctive flora, fauna and people.”

Five miles or so from where I grew up was a “real” swamp, one I spent untold hours in, hunting, fishing and exploring. Saline swamp – it really is a swamp – is a larger stream into which my Molido empties and eventually makes its way on to the Red River which empties into the Mississippi River — which eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was along a certain stretch of Saline that as a kid, we dunked live crawfish impaled on a hook into the waters where the bottom was a mixture of sand and gravel. It was there where we caught what we called “smallmouth” bass when in fact they were Kentucky or spotted bass.

In his book, Ouchley really triggered my memories when he wrote about catching “smallmouth” bass along Bayou D’Arbonne.

Another favorite activity in spring along Saline was wading out in the backwaters and scooping up the making of some of the best jelly known to man, mayhaws. Ouchley writes about doing the exact same thing in his swamp with a descriptive term that makes my mouth water. He writes,  “Mayhaws are small trees found in forested wetlands of the Southeast that produce a fruit used to make one of the finest jellies ever to grace a buttermilk biscuit.”

Let’s cut to the chase right here. Kelby Ouchley’s writing style, in my opinion, rivals that of any writer anywhere when it comes to his gift of painting pictures with the written word. I have copies of his other books, including the popular Bayou Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country, that validate my point of view.

Here’s an example of Ouchley sharing his thoughts after a beautiful indigo bunting had crashed into the window next to his office.

“For tens of thousands of nights I have slept in this place on the edge of the swamp as wild geese flew south and wild geese flew north, wings rustling the pages of my calendar, and now that I have surpassed seven decades of a life that has included many migrations, individuals of all species seem more important. Maybe it’s a softening of my hard science outlook, or perhaps it is because I’ve had a couple of near window strikes myself, that I made the effort to bury the indigo bunting beneath my favorite wild azalea. Purposefully.”           

Kelby Ouchley knows the bayou D’Arbonne swamp so well because he lives on a hill overlooking this place he loves. His background in working with wildlife all his life when coupled with his attachment to the natural world his swamp reveals to him is a gift few enjoy.

To order your own personally inscribed copy of Bayou D’Arbonne Swamp, contact Ouchley at this address – Kelby Ouchley, 106 Heartwood Dr., Farmerville, LA 71241. His e-mail address is Cost of the book including shipping and handling is $34.15. 

Contact Glynn at

Somber Chiefs prepare for first home district game vs. Benton

REMEMBERING ROBERT: Receiver Robert Walker II (12) leads the Chiefs into the locker room at the end of the first half against Alexandria Senior High. Walker died after a utility terrain vehicle accident Sunday.


Football has a way of bonding teammates together, and Natchitoches Central will need that bond more than ever this week as they prepare to host Benton on Friday.

The Chiefs are mourning the loss of junior receiver Robert Walker II, 16, who died in a utility terrain vehicle accident Sunday.

“Robert was a great young man that was truly loved by his teammates,” said NCHS coach James Wilkerson. “He had improved so much this year and was really stepping up for us. I was excited to see where he was going.”

Walker II, an Auburn fan, liked to pick on Wilkerson, who is faithful to Alabama. Wilkerson said the team will certainly be thinking about Walker II this week and for the rest of the season.

“He was funny and always had something funny to say,” Wilkerson said. “He’s just a great young man that will be missed. You try to honor your teammate in different ways. You focus on how football was a binding force among the players.”

NCHS (2-3, 1-1) will get a chance to play its first home district game after splitting the first two District 1-5A contests on the road.

The Chiefs blanked Southwood, 27-0, before being blanked by Airline this past week in a 46-0 decision.

But NCHS quarterback BJ Young saw his first regular-season action against Airline after missing the first four weeks of the season with a shoulder injury suffered in the jamboree.

Young shared time with the two sophomores Lannon Collum and Adam Guillet, accumulating 19 rushing yards and seven passing yards on 2-7 through the air.

Weapons Jeremiah Miles (averaging 100 rushing yards per game) and Camryn Davis (leads team with 107 receiving yards) will be key to whoever is under center.

Wilkerson said they will continue to evaluate Young each day to determine his availability for Friday.

Benton (2-3, 1-1) appeared to straighten out their early-season concerns in a 63-28 drubbing of previously undefeated Byrd.

The Tigers have scored at least 50 points in each of the last three games, but two of those were losses – 54-52 to Isidore Newman and 75-59 to Airline.

Benton didn’t have similar struggles against Byrd’s power rushing attack, something Natchitoches Central will build its offense around as the passing game continues to develop.

“Benton has a good team and is one of the most well-rounded teams that I have seen this year,” Wilkerson said. “It will be a tough game for us this week in slowing them down.”

CREDIT: Kevin Shahanan/NPJ Sports

St. Mary’s, Lakeview kick off district play on winning streaks

SHAKE ‘EM OFF: Running back Joe Metoyer sheds would-be tacklers during a win against Holy Savior Menard

BY DWAIN SPILLMAN Jr./ Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES — Now, it’s about to get real.

After enjoying a much-needed bye week, St. Mary’s will begin the most important season of all as they travel to square off with LaSalle this Friday in the District 3-1A opener.

The Tigers (3-1) are hunting for their second district title in three seasons after winning the crown in an abbreviated 2020 season.

“It is district,” Tigers boss Aaron York said. “This will be a big week for us. Our goal each year is to win district, and you can’t win it until you win the first one.”

LaSalle (3-2) started 3-0 but have dropped their last two decisions to Lakeview (28-6) in Week 4 and Delhi Charter (53-8) this past week.

However, York added that LaSalle has been a traditionally challenging opponent to overcome.

“It’s going to be a dogfight every time we play them,” York said looking ahead to the trip down Hwy. 84. “They have some hard-nosed, tough kids and they are going to come out swinging and fighting. We play them every year, and it has always been a big challenge for us because just about anything will happen.”

St. Mary’s will be well-rested for the potential dogfight after coming off a bye this past week.

York said it has given his team time to heal from injury and refocus on fundamentals as they face the second half of the season. After dropping a touch contest at perennial Class 3A powerhouse Abbeville in Week 1, the Tigers recorded three straight victories before taking a rest in Week 5.

“We are fairly healthy right now,” York said. “We are just trying to get through this week of practice without any further issues. We are just working on fundamentals on offense and defense.”

Lakeview riding wave as Winnfield begins district slate

The Lakeview Gators (4-1) are enjoying an infrequent but coveted 4-game winning streak as one of their biggest challenges of the season looms on the Friday night horizon.

After opening the season with a heart-breaking loss to D’Arbonne Woods Charter, Lakeview has tallied four wins over legitimate foes as they open District 3-2A with perhaps the most legitimate foe to date in Winnfield. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at The Swamp.

“It’s a real big challenge for us,” Helms said as his team prepares for the Winnfield Parish opponent. “Winnfield is very good, and they are well-coached. They have a lot of depth.”

Winnfield (4-1) is also enjoying a much-improved season after disappointing campaigns over the last few seasons, posting a better than .500 mark just once in the last five years. The Tigers slapped Bunkie with a 23-14 loss on the road a week ago and roll into district play with tons of confidence.

Among Winnfield’s wins is Class 5A member Pineville, whom the Tigers drubbed 33-6.

“We are very excited coming into this week,” Helms continued. “It’s exciting because we have enjoyed some success this season. However, the kids understand what’s at stake. We are going to go do what we do.”

That success has come at a price. Starting veteran quarterback CJ Jones is questionable to return to the lineup this week as he continues to heal from injury. Helms said that Jones has seen limited action in practice this week.

However, the move placed versatile threat Dillon Pikes under center with success this past week.

Pikes, whom Helms has called the most versatile player he has coached in his 27 years, had 14 touches last week in his first start at quarterback and tallied more than 150 yards from scrimmage.

Additionally, the talented senior stud returned a kickoff for a touchdown while robbing Delta Charter with two interceptions on defense.

Photo: Elizabeth Yopp/St. Mary’s Media Relations

A Thankless Job

Over the years as a tournament angler, I’ve noticed some guys never get the credit they deserve. No one ever tells them “Thank you” for what they do or how they do it. Housekeepers, healthcare workers, lunchroom ladies, childcare workers, or even caregivers all seem to be invisible, mainly because we don’t see them or recognize the job they do. Yes, in most cases they are getting paid, but sometimes the pay doesn’t make up for the job itself and what is required.

Well, that would also be the life of a bass tournament director. Each and every tournament trail in the country has one person who has to deal with anglers who think they know the best way to run a tournament trail. Yes, I’ll say it…bass fishermen have huge egos! Shocker! One thing anglers are guilty of is making suggestions that usually only benefit the angler who made the suggestion. They all think they know a better way to skin a cat or run a bass tournament.

Tournament director, Chris Wayand runs all the ABA (American Bass Anglers) tournament trails like the Open Series and the Solo 150 Tour. Mike Echols has run two of the best team trails in the Ark-La-Tex region like the H&W Team Trail and the Thursday night Cash Splash. Both of these guys do a great job of setting the standard for what all tournament directors should strive for. They are tough and will make sure the rules for each tour are followed. There’s no grey area with either of them. Whatever the rule states are exactly how it will be implemented. Anglers may not always like a certain ruling, but they will respect it. This is what makes a great tournament trail…consistency!

A tournament director’s job is to make sure that all anglers in an event are treated fairly and that all rules are followed with no exceptions. He must plan and schedule where the tour will be going the next season a year in advance. He has to secure boat ramps and make sure that there’s plenty of parking. Securing a boat ramp is not something to just skip over. This has become a major issue for all tournament directors, especially in the state of Texas. Every fall, the new schedules are released by all tournament trails. Every director must work around each other in order to make it happen. There are basically only four weekends in a month and at least eight active major trails, but for the sake of time and ink, I won’t list them.

Now imagine you’re a tournament director and trying to schedule around all these different circuits, truly a nightmare! But still, there’s always an angler that thinks they know a better way and wants to question why the director scheduled an event on a specific weekend. Didn’t he realize it’s the opening weekend of college football? Didn’t he know that there was a high school tournament that same weekend? Didn’t he know it was the President’s Birthday? You get the point! This is what a director has to hear over and over again… people questioning why he put a particular tournament on a specific Saturday!

Today, we’ll give praise to all tournament directors who do a “thankless job” and attempt to make every angler a happy camper. These guys give up their weekends so all of us future Kevin Van Dams can get on a given body of water and compete. Yes, it’s true they do get paid, but there’s no making up for the time they sacrifice away from family and friends in order to run the best tournament trail possible. Today we salute and say, “Thank you,” to all bass tournament directors for a job well done! Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget your sunscreen.

Steve Graf – Owner Co-Host
Hook’N Up & Track’N Down Show &
Tackle Talk Live

Northwestern State visits Lamar, aiming to keep pace in conference standings

BEAUMONT, Texas—The Northwestern State soccer team begins the second half of Southland Conference play with a road trip to Lamar on Friday, as it aims to climb over the .500 mark in league action and keep pace in the conference standings.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the Lamar Soccer Complex.

NSU (5-3-3 overall, 2-2-2 SLC) is coming off a weekend in which it lost a hard-fought match at home against Houston Christian before scoring a late goal to tie McNeese.

The Lady Demons aim for revenge after they lost at home to Lamar 2-0 on Sept. 16.

In that game, the contest remained scoreless until the 67th minute when the Cardinals had a ball bounce their way and Cariel Ellis scored. LU sealed the game with another tally in the 86th minute.

“They are obviously a very good team at home, so that is probably the big difference maker,” NSU women’s soccer coach Stuart Gore said. “But other than that, I feel confident going into this game, just like Lamar is.”

Despite NSU out-shooting the Cardinals 13-5, Lamar found the back of the net twice, the only team to do that against the NSU defense so far this season.

LU (9-0-1, 6-0) keeps rolling along, having gone through its first 10 games undefeated, with the only result keeping it from a perfect 10-0 record is a tie at South Alabama on Sept. 8.

The Cardinals, who are out-scoring opponents 14-1 in Southland play, have won the past three meetings with NSU and five of the past six. After dropping the first two in the series, Lamar has gone 10-2-2 since.

NSU’s defense has been the second best in the conference, ranking just behind Lamar, allowing just .82 goals per game overall and .83 in league play. In SLC action, the Cardinals have a miniscule .17 goals against average.

“I think reasons, why our defense is so good, is that we stay compact and we talk a lot,” said freshman defender Madison Murphy, who earned her first career start in the tie at McNeese. “We just make sure we all know what is going on and we all have one goal, which is to make sure the ball doesn’t go in the back of our net.”

Nicole Panis, the stalwart in goal for Lamar, has won four of the seven SLC Goalkeeper of the Week awards, including this past week. She made a combined eight saves in victories against UIW and Southeastern Louisiana.

Panis, a senior, has recorded six shutouts and posted a .32 goals against average and an incredible .933 save percentage.

On the other side, NSU’s Chloe DeShazer has played every minute for NSU this season, posting three shutouts and has recorded 28 saves.

Offensively for NSU, freshman Taylor Spitzer, who scored the game-tying goal at McNeese this past Sunday, has scored two goals in league play, which is tied for the most on the team in such games.

“As a freshman, you generally just come in sometimes the moment is too big,” Gore said. “Taylor just comes in and she is kind of a young version of Liv (Draguicevich) to me. She knows where the goal is and she is loving the fact that she is now a college soccer player and has taken full advantage.”

Her eight points on the season is the most by an NSU freshman since Olivia Draguicevich’s 12 in 2019.

Draguicevich, a senior, continues to lead the team in both goals and scoring, posting seven and 14, respectively.

NSU registered one goal this past weekend, but controlled much of the two matches and it feels like it is just a matter of time before the team goes on an offensive run.

“I think we are on the verge of breaking through with another great offensive performance,” Emily Mougia said. “We’re this close to having a goal breakthrough like we had against Texas A&M-Commerce. We just need one goal and then they’ll start coming like crazy.”

Offensively for the Cardinals, Christine Kitaru leads her team in both goals (8) and points (17). She has scored a goal in each of her last two games. Kitaru did not play in the first meeting.

Ellis, however, did play in the first matchup and scored the first goal of the contest in the 67th minute to give LU the late lead to push the Cardinals to victory in Natchitoches.

Ellis, a senior, has recorded six goals and four assists for a total of 16 points, the second-most in each category.

NSU heads back to Natchitoches to round out the weekend with a visit from Nicholls on Sunday, which is the first of two straight contests at home.

PHOTO: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services