Jess Curtis honored for Many success at National Football Foundation dinner

MANY MADE:  Many resident Jess Curtis (left) was presented a Coach of the Year honor by Tag Rome, a board member of the S.M. McNaughton Chapter of the National Football Foundation, last Thursday night in Shreveport. (Photo by ROBERT FREDERICK, for the McNaughton Chapter)

 Former Many High School football coach Jess Curtis was honored last Thursday night at the annual National Football Foundation S.M. McNaughton Chapter Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport.

Curtis received the chapter’s Coach of the Year award, which is only presented occasionally, not annually, recognizing exceptional achievement as a high school football coach in north Louisiana.

In his 13 seasons leading his alma mater’s program, Curtis went 142-32 (.816) with state championships in 2014, 2020 and 2022, three more state runner-up finishes (2013, 2019, 2021) and another three state semifinal berths (2016-18). The Class 2A Tigers have won 50 of their last 53 games while making four straight state championship games, and are 6-0 in that stretch over Class 4A or 5A opponents.

Many has won 53 consecutive district games and has played in state championship games in each of the last four seasons, winning two of the last three, going 38-2 overall this decade.

The Tigers have won 10 straight district championships and are unbeaten in district play during that time, reaching the state playoffs every year and advancing at least to the state semifinals in all but one season.

Many reached the Class AA state finals in 2013, then won its first state championship under Curtis the following season. The Tigers reached the playoff semifinals in 2016, 2017 and 2018, then lost in the 2019 state finals. They came back to win the 2020 2A championship, fell in the 2021 finals and beat Class 3A Union Parish in December to capture the Division III state crown.

The Tigers are known for their physical style of play, aggressive defense and powerful running game.

Curtis told the audience that the great support of Many and Sabine Parish residents was a key factor in developing one of the state’s most dominant high school programs. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to coach and teach at his alma mater, and for all of the support he and the Tigers have received through the years.

Many High public address announcer Buddy Wood introduced Curtis, who has taken a new post as head coach at Natchitoches Central High School. Wood praised Curtis’ integrity and values as keystones in the Many Made success story.

Ten 2022 senior prep football scholar-athletes, nominated by their head coaches, received accolades and scholarships during the event. The 10 were North DeSoto’s Hunter Addison, Green Oaks’ Fred Benjamin, Elijah Harper of Red River, Christian Jones from C.E. Byrd, West Monroe’s Blake Loring, Adam Parker of St. Mary’s in Natchitoches, Haughton’s Peyton Polk, Kam Robinson from Captain Shreve, Hayden Rolfe of Logansport and Northwood’s Mason Welch.

The event was attended by over 330 guests including college head coaches Brad Laird of Northwestern State and Sonny Cumbie of Louisiana Tech, along with National Football Foundation membership director Ron Dilatush.

Northwood’s Welch was spotlighted as the KTBS/Johnny’s Pizza House Scholar-Athlete of the Year after being nominated last fall for the 2022 NFF Scholar-Athlete Watch List. Fourteen standouts were spotlighted during Tuesday segments on the KTBS 6 and 10 p.m. sportscasts and on the station’s award-winning Johnny’s Pizza House Friday Football Fever weekly highlight show, and received a Griffin’s Game Ball in tribute to the late KTBS and KSLA news and sports personality, who served on the McNaughton Chapter’s board.

Chapter and national officials presented a National Football Foundation Gold Medal presentation to Leo Sanford, the longtime chapter president who has been on the NFF board since its creation in 1980. Sanford, a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions and the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, was a star center and linebacker at Shreveport’s Fair Park High School and at Louisiana Tech before becoming a Pro Bowl player in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals and winning the 1958 NFL championship alongside Johnny Unitas for the Baltimore Colts.

Former Northwestern State basketball coach Mike McConathy was presented the chapter’s Distinguished American Award for his far-reaching impact on high school and collegiate athletics, community service and lifelong involvement with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

McConathy, who became the winningest college basketball coach in state history during his 23 seasons at Northwestern in a 39-year college coaching career. He is also a member of the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame and the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions, and NSU’s Hall of Distinguished Educators and N-Club Hall of Fame.

Previous Distinguished American award winners include Sanford, Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, Denny Duron, Orvis Sigler, Tim Brando, James Davison, Terry Slack, Billy Montgomery, and Ivan Smith Jr., along with McConathy’s father Johnny McConathy and the namesake of the local NFF chapter, Milton McNaughton.

Longtime Byrd High coach Mike Suggs, who retired two years ago, received the chapter’s Contribution to Amateur Football Award after being introduced by former recipient Alan Carter, who hired Suggs at Byrd as offensive coordinator over 30 years ago.

Among other prior recipients are Eddie Robinson, Lee Hedges, Bert Jones, Joe Ferguson, Alton “Red” Franklin, Stan Humphries, Doug Williams, Jimmy “Chick” Childress, Rodney Guin, Broderick Fobbs, Joe Raymond Peace and Sam Goodwin.

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