Many’s new head football coach comes highly recommended

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Almost a month to the day of Jess Curtis’ stunning departure from his alma mater to become the new coach at Natchitoches Central, Many High School has his replacement, and while Dillon Barrett isn’t a high-profile name, he has turned heads in three seasons as coach at Grant High in his hometown of Dry Prong.

Barrett, 30, was 15-12 in three seasons leading the Cougars, steering them to a pair of rare playoff appearances for the school. He took over a program that was 1-9 in each of its seasons prior to Barret’s return to his high school alma mater.

Before he coached the Cougars, the school had never hosted a playoff game but did in 2020 and 2021. Grant went 8-3 in 2021. The Cougars started 4-1 last fall but despite a high-scoring offense, faded in the district season.

He is regarded as a disciplinarian who is committed to strength and conditioning training – mirroring Curtis’ approach in those areas.

Barrett takes the helm of a Many powerhouse that has won two straight state championships and played in four straight state title games, while making at least the semifinals of the playoffs in all but one of the past 10 years. Many hasn’t lost a district game in 10 seasons. Curtis steered the Tigers to their first state title in 2014.

Barrett, however, is different from his predecessor with a much more wide-open offensive approach, generally leaning toward the passing attack but with a productive running game as well.

Barrett helped Ole Miss win the Sugar Bowl to end his senior season in 2015. He played in 10 games as a tight end as a graduate transfer, after playing the same position at Lamar. He was a quarterback in high school and at Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College.

LaMar Gafford, the former Alexandria Town Talk sports journalist now producing his content, said that Many has hired well. Gafford was first to report the news Tuesday.

“He’s one of the bright up-and-coming minds in this area. Doing what he did at Grant, that’s no easy task. He gave them hope where there had been very little,” said Gafford. “He took them to two playoffs and narrowly missed another this past year.

“He rejuvenated the program and brought excitement to the community, the whole parish, really. He’s a young guy with great energy. The players will definitely want to play for him, that’s for sure.”

“He’s done a very good job of developing players with their strength and conditioning program,” said Gafford. “Grant has a good chance to sustain what he’s built there.”

He’s had players advance to college teams, something that Grant has rarely done, and Gafford said there are more prospects Barrett has helped develop in the Cougars’ senior class of 2024.

As far as Barrett’s brand of football, Gafford said it will be fun to watch.

“He’s going to spread you out in some ways. They’ve had a quarterback who can sling it around, and he’s had a running back to provide a ground game that created problems for defenses. He’ll coach to his talent. The Many faithful will probably see more passes than they’ve seen in a while, but the running game will still be a big part of their offense,” he said. “They score some points.

“Although he played some safety along with tight end in college, he was a quarterback in high school and he is all about developing players at that position,” said Gafford. “I think he’s more offensive minded, honestly. But that Many defensive DNA is strong and I don’t expect to see them having anything less than a really good defense going forward.”

It’s a good fit for Many, Gafford believes.

“He did a lot at Grant. It’s a tough job and he gave them hope, and his teams competed far past expectations every season, even the last one,” said Gafford. “He transformed that program in a short time, in remarkable fashion, and I think he’s going to do really well at Many.”

Among the talented Tigers returning in 2023 are defensive back Tylen Singleton, defensive lineman Swazy Carheel and running back Jeremiah James.

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