By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
When Jess Curtis left the powerhouse Many High School football program in January to breathe life into a long-struggling Natchitoches Central squad, it raised eyebrows around Louisiana and excited locals.
Now that Curtis has interviewed for the head coaching position at one of Louisiana’s most successful high school football factories, it’s raised blood pressure around Natchitoches.
The new NCHS coach was one of three people interviewed Thursday for the West Monroe High School job. Former NSU defensive coordinator and ULM head coach Mike Collins, currently defensive coordinator at Neville, also interviewed. Other candidates’ interviews are planned to extend into Tuesday, according to multiple media reports.
Curtis took the NCHS position in early January and has been on campus since, hiring his coaching staff and overseeing a dynamic off-season strength and conditioning program in the Chiefs’ sparkling, brand-new fieldhouse.
Curtis and NCHS principal Micah Coleman did not respond Thursday to efforts to contact them for comment. Natchitoches Parish schools superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi declined to discuss the situation.
More than a dozen accomplished candidates have applied, according to new West Monroe principal Don Lane, who was named to his post earlier this week.
Other representatives of West Monroe have been reaching out to potential candidates for weeks. Head coach Jerry Arledge stepped down April 4 but remains as athletics director. Arledge has been at WMHS since 1992, working under Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach Don Shows from 1992-2012 as defensive coordinator before being promoted to the top spot.
West Monroe won eight state championships under Shows, and remains one of Louisiana’s most successful football programs, although the Rebels haven’t won a state crown since 2011. They did reach state finals in 2016 and 2018.
The West Monroe program ranks among the state’s elite both in performance and interest. The Rebels consistently sell out their 6,000-seat stadium for home games.
In 13 seasons at Many, his alma mater, Curtis’ Tigers won three state championships, played for three others, and reached the state semifinals three more times. Many was 50-3 in its last three seasons of Curtis on the sideline. He has not coached anywhere else, with some pundits questioning his ability to step up from a rural Class 2A program to competition in one of the state’s most intense big-school districts in its largest classification.
While Curtis built a struggling Many program to the best in its class, NCHS has only two winning seasons in the last decade. The Chiefs haven’t been consistently successful since the mid-1990s, highlighted by a state semifinal appearance (and a loss to West Monroe, after a regular-season win over the Rebels) in 1996.
NCHS, like other schools around the state, plans to conduct spring practice next month.
Curtis’ name as a candidate for the West Monroe job began circulating in media speculation and on social media and message boards around the state within the last several days.
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