WINNFIELD – When Many coach Jess Curtis reflects on the obstacles and challenges of building a championship program, there was one program in the region that arguably set the standard for small public schools.
Power-based rushing attack. Stifling defense.
The programs, which are near mirror-images of each other at their respective heights, will face off Friday as Winnfield (5-1, 1-0 District 3-2A) hosts Class 2A No. 1 Many (5-0, 1-0).
The programs weren’t at their respective pinnacles at the same time though.
Many, which has taken advantage of the public-private school split in the LHSAA playoffs, has reached five of the last nine state championship games since the 2013 split and took home the championship in 2020 and 2014.
Many’s first state title appearance in 2013 – also its first of seven straight regular season wins against Winnfield. The streak actually started in 2012 when Many knocked Winnfield out of the playoffs in the second round en route to a quarters finish for Many.
“When I started, Winnfield was who we were chasing,” said Many coach Jess Curtis. “We have had some big games through the years. The 2012 second-round playoff game was a huge one, and we’ve been rolling ever since.”
Winnfield, which has won one state championship (1982), has appeared in four state title games, the last in 2011. Winnfield nearly met Many in the 2013 championship game, losing in the semifinals opposite Many that season.
But the Winn Parish-version of the Tigers suffered through an unheard of four straight losing seasons before a six-win campaign in 2021.
Now Winnfield could match that total and launch themselves into the state championship contenders field with a win against Many, the preeminent power in Class 2A.
Winnfield positioned itself as the top threat in the district to Many with a 53-20 throttling of Lakeview, who is having a Cinderella story of their own so far this season.
A resurgent Winnfield program has knocked off the likes of Pineville, Caldwell Parish, Jena and Bunkie. Cedar Creek dealt Winnfield its only loss.
“Winnfield is playing well, and I’ve always liked the Many-Winnfield rivalry,” Curtis said. “I’m glad they are playing good ball again. We like our district to be playing well because it keeps us sharp.”
When Curtis said Many is rolling, they are rolling by winning their five games by an average of 32 points.
That includes a nail-biter against Arch Manning and Isidore Newman along with routs of Class 5A members Sam Houston and Haughton, the first time Many has beaten two Class 5A members in the same season.
The Tigers needed to shake the rust off a Week 5 bye week as Mansfield broke a few tackles for long scores early, but Many clawed their way to a 61-18 win against the Wolverines.
Many worked to develop its passing game this offseason, and the Tigers flashed it with three Tackett Curtis completions for 75 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Tight end Mason Leach caught two of those passes for 58 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown.
“The passing game is something we have worked hard on throughout the offseason,” Jess Curtis said. “Tackett is a big-armed quarterback, and he has some good targets. We broke our passing game out last week and hurt them on a couple of big plays. Teams can’t afford to give us easy touchdowns through the air.”
Many times, Many doesn’t need to throw the ball, relying on its ground attack and suffocating defense.
But the Tigers know they can’t be one-dimensional and win a district and state title – of which the next step goes through Winnfield.