NSU will not retain head football coach Jay Thomas after 5 seasons; home game Saturday will be his last

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After five seasons, Jay Thomas will coach the Northwestern State football team for the last time when the Demons host Stephen F. Austin Nov. 18 in a 3 p.m. Southland Conference contest in Turpin Stadium.

Thomas told his players Friday evening that the SFA game will be his final one as their coach. His contract expires after the season and will not be renewed, said NSU athletics director Greg Burke.

“Coaching transition is never easy and that is especially the case when it involves a first-class person like Jay Thomas. I am certain that many others share my appreciation for how well Jay has represented Demon football, NSU Athletics, Natchitoches and NSU throughout his five-year tenure,” said Burke. “I wish him and his family all the best going forward.

“The foundation of Demon football has been enhanced under Jay’s leadership on many levels. Most notably, the academic profile of our football program – as evidenced by NCAA Academic Progress Rate numbers and related honors – has improved significantly and to the point that the multi-year score is well above the minimum benchmark and keeps NSU well-positioned to be eligible for postseason competition,” said Burke, who also pointed to Thomas’ involvement and visibility in the community and the Coaches Cabinet Association fundraising group Thomas established as positives.

Thomas and his staff organized and hosted one of the largest one-day, on-campus summer camps in the region this summer, with over 500 high school competitors visiting Turpin Stadium and NSU’s practice facilities for expert instruction.

The NSU football program had the best APR score, 975 of a possible 1,000, among the 11 Southland Conference football teams for 2015-16. The program’s four-year APR under Thomas is 957.

An impressive total of 91 players have earned undergraduate degrees since the end of the 2014 season and over a dozen of the 17 seniors playing their final home game Saturday will graduate this year or have already graduated.

As he prepared to give his players the news Friday evening, Thomas said he was completely focused on the 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon home game against Stephen F. Austin.

“I think these guys will take it the right way, rally up and we’ll be ready to play. We have game tomorrow, that’s the most important thing. We’re playing for our 17 seniors and we’re playing for Chief Caddo, the biggest trophy in sports,” he said.

“I’d like to thank the administration for the opportunity to be the head coach here at Northwestern State. It’s been a pleasure and an honor,” said Thomas. “This is a great university with a lot of great things going on. (New president Chris) Dr. Maggio is going to do a fantastic job, and there are bigger and better things to come here.

“To the fans and the alumni, and the student body, I want to say thank you for all of the support. Now is the time for everyone to rally together. It’s not just about the football program, it’s about the entire university. That’s what I would like to see, the Demon family have success. I’m always going to be a Demons fan. I’m going to be one of the biggest supporters.

“I want to thank our players, past and present, for all their hard work and dedication. We didn’t win all our battles out there, but we gave everything we had. I’m very proud of the way they represented the university on and off the field for five years,” he said. “And I can’t wait to go out there at Turpin Stadium one more time with them.”

Thomas, 57, has a 20-36 record with the Demons, 14-27 in Southland Conference play. Adding in six seasons (2004-09) as head coach at Nicholls, he has a 47-71 career mark in 11 seasons.

The Demons opened with a pair of 6-6 seasons under Thomas in 2013 and 2014, including a 2014 victory at Heart of Dallas Bowl champion Louisiana Tech, two blowout wins over in-state rival Southern, and a 2014 homecoming win over highly-ranked Southland Conference power Sam Houston State. But NSU dipped to 4-7 in 2015 and 1-10 in 2016, and stands 3-7 overall heading into Saturday’s season finale.

Since Thomas took over, the Demons have suffered 11 losses decided in the closing minutes, seven in the past two seasons, including bitter defeats this year to a pair of nationally-ranked Southland Conference opponents, Nicholls and Sam Houston State, in which they led nearly the entire contests.

“There have been so many close losses over the past two to three seasons that have resulted in the program’s win-loss record not being at a desirable level,” said Burke. “Thus, the decision has been made to move in a different direction with the program leadership in hopes of providing for our fans, former players and supporters more success that ultimately leads to championships and postseason appearances.”

Burke said Saturday’s NSU-SFA contest is the sole focus for him now, but consideration of options for choosing a new head coach is underway and will intensify Sunday.

Maggio, Coach T, 9-20-142014 fall FB AM grads

School Employees of the Month

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Debbie Guidry and Tony Salard were honored at this month’s meeting of the school board. They were named the outstanding employees of the month for September and October.

Board’s insurance company presents the award. Two awards were presented this month because no award was presented in October due to a scheduling conflict.

Tony Salard was honored as the October Employee of the Month. Mike Peter, Principal of Red River Junior High, nominated her. Peter said, “Mrs. Salard is one of the best team players a school could ever wish for. She is usually the first face our car riders see every morning. You never see her without her smile and a great big ‘Good Morning!’ She knows all the students by name.” Salard is also the teacher of the month for November at the Junior High.

High School Principal J C Dickey nominated Debbie Guidry as the school employee for November. Dickey’s nomination statement said, “Mrs. Guidry has been teaching 40 plus years and she shows up to work every day with the energy like it’s her first. She was handed a new curriculum in August and she started teaching without hesitation.” Dickey added, “She is one of the first teachers to arrive and the last to go home. She is always planning and looking out for what’s best for her students.”

The two ladies were presented plaques, had their pictures taken, and were recognized by the school board members for their hard work and devotion to the students.

Veterans Honored by First Baptist

By Faerie Sledge

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First Baptist Church Coushatta honored its veterans Sunday, November 12, 2017, during morning services. Fifteen veterans are members of the church. Each was presented with a red, white, and blue afghan handcrafted by Sewing God’s Love, a local ladies sewing group sponsored by First Baptist, First United Methodist, and Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, Coushatta. Pastor Nathan Davis of First Baptist read brief military bios for each veteran, including branches of service, locations served (stateside or overseas during wars), and other pertinent service information. The congregation gave the veterans a standing ovation.

Front row, L to R: Wiley Garrett, Joe Smith, Joe Bass, Johnny Duco, Roger Cason, and Jack Lafield.
Center: Jack Moseley, Ray Penny, Pastor Nathan Davis, Earnest “Turk” Hayes, Jeffrey Smith.
Back row: Billy Warren, Vernon Coffey

Also honored but unable to be present were I.L. “Buck” Dickson, J.R. Sessions, and Rex Young.

First Heart Program a Big Success

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The first Heart Program held in Red River Parish is being termed a success by the MLK Health Center. The event was Tuesday of this week in the parking lot behind Christus Coushatta Health Care Center.

Spokesperson Jordan Ring told The Journal that there were many health screenings provided including mammograms, PSA screening, HIV tests, and many participants were given assessments on their health risks.

There were prize giveaways throughout the afternoon program and many organizations partnered with MLK Health Center to offer nutrition and medical information to participants.

Here is the breakdown of the event from Jordan Ring of the MLK Health Center and Pharmacy:

• Roughly 75 people in attendance.
• Also attending: Representative Terry Brown; Mr. Matt Howerton from Congressman Mike Johnson’s office; Mayor Johnny Cox; Jessie Davis, Red River Police Jury; Ms. Allison Hughes, Superintendent Red River Parish Schools; Dr. Bruce Wilson from United Way; Dr. Chris Ciocchetti, President, MLK Board of Directors.
• Health Services Program partners attending: Shreveport Green; Partners in Wellness/Feist Weiler Cancer Center; St. Luke’s Episcopal Mobile Medical Program; the Philadelphia Center; CHRISTUS Coushatta Health Care Center & Red River Parish Health Unit.
• Food was provided by Matt Huddleston owner of Hudd’s Sports Grill. Mr. Huddleston is also a member of the Red River Parish School Board.
• Feedback/comments: Nonnie from KJVC Radio in Mansfield was onsite to provide a live radio remote. While she was onsite she mentioned to Janet that she needed to have a mammogram, but didn’t want to take time away from other participants. Janet told her she needed to go “get on the van”, because the services are for everyone who needs them. Nonnie had a mammogram herself. It was long overdue.
• 27 participants received health risk assessments – results (15 – elevated blood pressure; 4 – diabetics; 1 – pre-diabetes; 3 – high cholesterol) [these numbers will not add up to 27, because some participants had some normal and some abnormal results]
• BMI: 7/normal; 6/overweight; 12/obese
• 11 participants received mammograms completed onsite; 1 participant was scheduled at CHRISTUS Coushatta Health Care Center.
• 5 participants received PSA screenings
• 4 participants received HIV tests
3 participants signed up for ongoing health coaching & programming.

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To Sell or To Demolish

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The School Board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee dealt with a dwelling on a plot of newly acquired land near the Junior High School. The committee met November 13th just before the full board meeting.

School Finance Director David Jones presented the committee with several options, including demolition or trying to sell the building to be removed. Jones reported that the last time a similar situation arose there were no buyers willing to pay the cost of moving that structure.

Committee member Gary Giddens suggested selling the house if that is possible. Otherwise he suggested allowing the fire department to do a “test burn” at that location.

The suggestion of Cleve Miller was that the board is in no rush, so try to see if they can get something out of it. Member Richard Cannon said 60 days to tear down or move the structure is reasonable.

The committee recommended to the full board that sale or removal would be advertised for three weeks, then there would be a 60 day window for the successful bidder to move the house or tear it down. Later that evening the full board adopted the committee’s recommendation on what to do with the structure.

 

School is Out For the Holidays

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Today, Friday November 17th, is the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break. Classes at Red River and Riverdale conclude today. Same thing for Northwestern.

NSU will be closed Nov. 20-24 for Thanksgiving break. Classes will resume and administrative offices will reopen Monday, Nov. 27. Watson Library will close Friday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. and will reopen for regular hours on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m.

The Red River Parish Journal will publish next Wednesday, November 22nd. There will be no Friday edition so that the staff and their family can spend some holiday time together. The Journal’s regular schedule resumes on Wednesday 29th.

Check your church or club schedule to see if it is impacted by the Thanksgiving Holiday. And have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Ham for the Holidays

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Imagine a delicious smoked ham for your holiday meal and it only cost two dollars! You’re not dreaming. New Life Church of Coushatta is raffling off a smoked Grayson’s ham and the tickets are just $2.

The winner of the ham will be announced Sunday November 19th at the church. You can buy a ticket from church members or by calling 932-6933 for directions. The church is located at 1920 Abbey Street in Coushatta.

The Journal met several ladies from the church at the Town Council meeting on Monday night, and our $2 is in the drawing.

ETC… for November 17th

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Reminder for Church Leaders in the parish. The Sheriff’s Office and Parish Office of Homeland Security are holding a parish wide meeting pertaining to church security. It will be held today (Nov 17th) at the courthouse at 2:00 pm.

Northwestern State University’s online programs were ranked as the best in Louisiana according to a higher education website. OnlineColleges.com ranked more than 2,500 accredited colleges and universities on factors including affordability, student services and the availability of online services. Northwestern State received an overall score of 97.16 and was noted for the features of career counseling services, placement services and life experience credit. The university also offers military training credit and advanced placement credit.

Saturday night November 18th is dance night at the Council on Aging. The Playmates will be playing in the Jack and Laura building on Front Street. The dance begins at 7:00 pm and goes until 10:00. Admission is $6.00.

Tomorrow is the Bulldog Bazaar at Red River Elementary School. Vendors will offer lots of great bargains. Come and shop for Christmas and other occasions.

Saturday is Election Day. Voter turnout is expected to be light. There are local tax issues on the ballot. If you have not voted, The Journal urges you to get out and cast a ballot.