More NSU players voice frustration with season’s sudden end

FRUSTRATED:  Northwestern State sophomore safety Cadillac Rhone (14) is among teammates upset that their season has been ended by university officials in the wake of teammate Ronnie Caldwell Jr.’s shooting death. (NSU photo)


NATCHITOCHES – Two more key players on the Northwestern State football team said Monday they were shocked when university president Dr. Marcus Jones and athletics director Kevin Bostian cancelled the Demons’ last four games of the season last Thursday, and they want to resume playing.

Sophomore tight end Travon “Champ” Jones launched a petition four days ago, at the suggestion of a Student Government Association official, urging resumption of the season. Nearly 800 people had added their support on Monday, when by 10 p.m. the petition had collected a total of over 2,100 signatures.

Several other players were among those commenting on the petition, along with parents, and family members of other NSU students directly impacted as members of the Spirit of Northwestern marching band and other support groups such as cheerleaders and dance line members.

The Demon tight end, who had 20 receptions last year and added 15 in five games this season, estimated “I could easily say over 75 percent (of team members), easy … would like to continue to play” the rest of the season, beginning with Saturday’s cancelled homecoming game at Turpin Stadium.

“We want to play. It’s definitely not the players,” said Jones on the “Billy West Live” podcast distributed by the Natchitoches Parish Journal Monday afternoon.  (LISTEN BELOW)

In the introduction to the petition, Jones wrote, “the fight to finish out the season is because it’ll give the athletes an outlet for the troubled times we are facing. This is a life-changing decision we should have say in.” (LISTEN BELOW)

Cadillac Rhone, a sophomore safety who is third on the team with 23 tackles, told Alexandria’s KALB-TV “we should have been playing football, playing the sport that we came here to play.”

Rhone was described as a close friend of the late Ronnie Caldwell Jr., the junior safety who was shot to death Oct. 12 at the Quad Apartment Complex across La. 6 from the university campus.

“We sacrificed our time away from our family and loved ones and all the work that we put in, and we get to display that on the field … that’s all I could think about, just going out there and playing ball,” said Rhone. “I miss it already.”

NSU cancelled its Oct. 14 game at Nicholls, then resumed the season Oct. 19 with a hard-fought 37-20 home loss to Southeastern. The game was moved up two days so Northwestern players, coaches and team personnel could attend Caldwell’s funeral in Austin, Texas, where Demons’ coach Brad Laird was invited to speak by the victim’s family.

Five days later, President Jones announced that the rest of the NSU season was cancelled due to Caldwell’s death and cited “the mental health and well-being of its student-athletes as the primary reason.” It scrapped the Demons’ game 48 hours later at McNeese, which was celebrating its homecoming.

President Jones said in the Thursday announcement NSU officials “learned that the hurt on our team was too deep. Now it is in the best interest of our players, coaches and staff to pause and take this time to mourn, to heal, and to support Ronnie’s family.”

Jones and Bostian also announced Laird had resigned. A day later, Caldwell’s parents and two Houston attorneys announced plans to sue the university, Laird and the apartment complex, and any other parties they deem responsible for Caldwell’s death.

On Saturday, Northwestern quarterback Tyler Vander Waal made a social media post criticizing the decision, saying players were “kept in the dark about everything” and calling the cancellation “a cop out.” Over 300,000 people have viewed his post on X (formerly Twitter).

He termed the cancellation “unacceptable” Monday, and said he was soon returning home to California, regrettably ending his football career.

“Ronnie would want us to play,” Vander Waal told Shreveport’s KTAL-TV. “That’s why we played Southeastern … (to) honor Ronnie …. he wasn’t a quitter. That’s not what he would want us to do … to quit is not honoring Ronnie at all.”

Meanwhile, the Southland Conference Monday issued guidelines addressing the cancellations’ impact on league standings. NSU’s five games not played are deemed “no contests” and will not be reflected in opponents’ final records, but will be counted as wins for the opponents to determine the Southland standings. They will not count as losses for NSU, the league said.

The Petition:

LCU football turnaround painted by Drew

Don’t look now, but just like that LCU’s football team is touting that it has the best season winning percentage (.889) and most season wins (8) in the modern era for Louisiana Christian University, formerly known as Louisiana College. Parenthetical note: It’s still privately known as Louisiana College among many alumni, who weren’t consulted about the name change that happened out of the blue (and orange) almost two years ago.

School name changes can be bummers. NLU and USL alumni know all about that.

Nonetheless, it’s a marvel to think the little college “on the hill” in Pineville is enjoying such unprecedented football success, even if the Wildcats are doing so at the NAIA level, rather than the previous NCAA Division III level. The architect of this upsurge is 36-year-old Shreveport native, Andrew John Maddox, who answers to the name “Drew.”

A former Army cavalry scout who did two tours of duty in Iraq, Maddox inherited a football program in 2020 that had deteriorated significantly from the days when he played defensive tackle for the Wildcats under Dennis Dunn, his former Dixie Youth baseball coach in Shreveport. It had bottomed out in an even shorter time since he had risen through the assistant coaching ranks to be defensive coordinator under Justin Charles in 2017.

In the meantime, Maddox built a head coaching resume by resurrecting a high school football team at Class A Glenbrook High School in Minden over two seasons. Then he got the call to try to do the same at LCU. To make the challenge tougher, he took over on Feb. 6 in 2020 and had all of two meetings with his new team when Covid and the feds shut everything down for several months. The Cats played an abbreviated schedule in the spring of ’21, finishing 2-3 in the American Southwest Conference.

LCU then switched from NCAA Division III to NAIA, but the football team was a lone wolf in finding a conference in which to play because all the other sports teams at LCU went to the Red River Athletic Conference, where none of the schools play football. The closest NAIA football league LCU could find, said Maddox, was the Sooner Athletic Conference, which has eight other teams from Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona.

“That allowed us to get some scholarship money,” said Maddox, who doles out that money along with some academic scholarship funds to recruit players. In his first full season, the fall of ’21, his team finished 4-7 but lost four games by less than a touchdown. Last year, the Wildcats finished 7-4 for the first winning season since his senior year, 2014 (following military service), when the Wildcats went 6-4.

Now, they are 8-1, and their lone loss, by three points at Ottawa University of Arizona (OUAZ) two weeks ago, is one that haunts them because the Wildcats muffed a makeable field goal earlier in the game because of a fumble on the snap, and they fell 5 ½ inches short of a fourth-quarter first down that could likely have led to a tying field goal, forcing an overtime and decent prospects for a victory.

How did it get to this point, where a victory in two weeks at Texas Wesleyan – after an exhibition game this weekend against John Melvin — can clinch at least a share of the SAC title?

For one, Maddox made a bold and impressive hire last spring, bringing David Feaster to LCU to be the offensive coordinator. Feaster boasts an impressive 188-77 record as a high school head coach at every stop over two decades: Many, Minden, Leesville, Parkway and Glenbrook. This season, he has overseen an offense that leads all of NAIA teams in total yards (4,397), red zone scores (42), red zone touchdowns (35) and first downs (240).

“Work hard and believe in what you do,” said Maddox. “God’s been good to me. The players bought in. If players buy in, you can probably turn things around.

“I took a discipline approach,” he added. “If you don’t lift weights, you don’t practice. If you don’t practice, you don’t play. It’s built on hard work and trying to do the right thing. There are no short cuts to being good.”

Sal Palermo III, the fifth-year senior quarterback from the Denham Springs neighboring town of Watson, calls Maddox “a great leader, not just in football but in life as well. He’s a great Christian leader, he helps us be good men, and that translates to us being good football players.”

On a team blessed with several fourth- and fifth-year players, Palermo said Maddox “preached from day one that all our work will pay off. ‘If you work,’ he said, ‘things will change.’ We’re seeing that.”

Time did not heal wounds: Tigers DBs depleted going vs. ‘Bama

STEPPING IN:  Jordan Jefferson (99) has been productive splitting time on the LSU defensive line, and now will be the replacement starter for the injured Mehki Wingo. (Photo by GUS STARK, LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – No miracles happened in No. 13 LSU’s open date week to solve the Tigers’ problem of having no experienced cornerbacks available for Saturday’s SEC West showdown at No. 8 Alabama.

LSU head coach Brian Kelly confirmed here at his weekly in-season press conference that the Tigers’ trio of transfer corners – Zy Alexander (Southeastern), Denver Harris (Texas A&M) and Duce Chestnut (Syracuse) – remain out of action.

Alexander has a lower-body injury and Harris and Chestnut are apparently still in Kelly’s doghouse. However, Kelly has never used the word “suspension” when explaining their absences for the last several weeks.

In an injury tradeoff, starting offensive right tackle Emery Jones Jr. has been given the green light after sitting out the Army game on Oct. 21 with a sprained ankle. On the flip side, starting defensive tackle Mehki Wingo underwent surgery last week (he missed the Army game with a lower-body injury) and is out for the rest of the regular season.

Kelly’s depth alternatives to the missing three transfer cornerbacks are true freshmen Ashton Stamps, Javien Toviano and Jeremiah Hughes and sophomore Laterrance Welsh.

“They’re elite players coming out of high school,” Kelly said of LSU’s inexperienced underclassmen corners. “Now, you’re putting them in a position where they just have to be confident and trust what we’ve taught them and taking that trust and putting it from preparation to performance and, and playing emotionally at a level which allows them to do their job.

“Yes, they haven’t played a lot of SEC games, but they’re quite capable of going out there and playing at a high level. They know what they’re doing. They understand our techniques, and they know what’s expected of them. We’re in a position where we feel comfortable and confident that they can go out and get the job done. You have to have confidence in your players and their ability to do it.”

As far as Wingo’s replacement, Virginia senior transfer Jordan Jefferson has been a consistent force off the bench all season. He has 21 tackles (1 fewer than Wingo) and 4½ tackles for loss (1½ more than Wingo).

“Jordan Jefferson has played at a high level,” Kelly said. “He’s graded out probably as our best defensive tackle. He’s physical at the point of attack, uses his hands well, he’s getting great separation, his gap integrity has been outstanding.” 


No. 13 LSU (6-2 overall, 4-1 in SEC West) at No. 8 Alabama (7-1, 5-0 SEC West), Bryant-Denny Stadium, Saturday, 6:45 p.m. (CBS) 

Last game for Alabama: Won at home 34-20 over Tennessee on Oct. 21. The Crimson Tide trailed 20-7 at halftime. Alabama scored on its first four drives of the second half and outscored the Vols 27-0 in the second half when the Tide outgained Tennessee 225 to 129 yards total offense. ’Bama QB Jalen Milroe completed 14 of 21 for 220 passing yards and 2 TDs, the fifth time in seven starts this season that he has thrown for at least 220 yards and at least 2 TDs. 

Series record and last meeting: Alabama leads the series 55-27-5. Last season in Baton Rouge, LSU won 32-31 in overtime. LSU QB Jayden Daniels ran for a 25-yard TD in OT and then threw the game-winning 2-point conversion pass to freshman tight end Mason Taylor. There were six second-half lead changes and a tying field goal by Alabama in the final 30 seconds. 

Alabama head coach: Nick Saban (291-70-1 in 28 seasons, 201-28 in 17 years at Alabama) 


Early betting line: Alabama is favored by 3½ points 

Number of Louisiana natives on Alabama roster: 5Number of Alabama natives on LSU roster: 2 

Number of transfers on Alabama roster from 4-year schools: 7 players from 7 schools including 6 players from 6 Power 5 Conference schools 


QB Jalen Milroe (99 of 153 for 1,617 passing yards, 13 TDs, 5 interceptions and 142 rushing yards and 5 TDs on 77 carries), RB Jase McCllelan (569 rushing yards, 4 TDs on 122 carries), WR Jermaine Bond (23 catches for 508 yards, 5 TDs, SAM LB Dallas Tumer (34 tackles, 11½ TFL, 8 sacks, 10 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles), JACK LB Chris Braswell (32 tackles, 9 TFL, 6½ sacks, 6 PBU), CB Terrrion Arnold (40 tackles, 5 TFL), PK/KO Will Reichard (15 for 15 FG, 25 of 25 extra points and 48 KO for 63.4 ypko, 30 touchbacks), P James Burnip (36 for 48.2 ypk, 6 touchbacks, 10 fair catches, 13 inside the 20, 15 50 yards or more), Kendrick Law (8 for 196), PR Kool-Aid McKinstry (11 for 58 yards) 


  1. How far is it from the SEC headquarters in Birmingham to Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium?

    A. 98,736 yards in penalty flags thrown against Alabama opponents

    B. A 50-minute drive for Nick Saban

    C.58.4 miles

    D. All of the above

  1. Who are the only two opposing head coaches to beat Nick Saban in back-to-back seasons in his 17 years as Alabama’s head coach? 

    A. Terry Bowden and Bobby Bowden

    B. Frank Beamer and Shane Beamer

    C. Les Miles and Hugh Freeze

    D. Mack Brown and Watson Brown

  2. What is the hometown of legendary former Alabama quarterback Broadway “Joe” Namath? 

    A. Gopher Gulch, N.D.

    B. Beaver Falls, Pa.

    C. Weasel City, W. Va.

    D. Lizard Ridge, Tx. 

ANSWERS 1. D 2. C 3. B

Contact Ron at

Parish teams jostling for playoff spots, first-round byes, home games

Playoff berths, first-round byes, home games – they are all up for grabs in this final week of regular-season high school football. Six Rapides Parish teams are in the thick of the chase.

Here are this week’s LHSAA top 25 power rankings, which produce the seedings for each of the four division brackets to be set Sunday for the LHSAA playoffs. All parish schools are classified in the Select division, where the brackets are 24 deep.


Select Division I
Team PR SF
1. Edna   Karr (8-0) 14.44 7.75
2. Captain   Shreve (8-1) 14.14 8.78
3. Holy   Cross (7-2) 13.99 9.44
4. Carencro   (8-1) 13.58 9.22
5. Brother   Martin (6-3) 13.43 10.56
6. St.   Paul’s (8-1) 13.33 8.56
7.   Acadiana (7-2) 13.06 9.56
8. Catholic   – B.R. (7-2) 12.92 8.67
9. Tioga   (7-2) 12.72 8.11
10. John   Curtis (6-2) 12.64 9.63
11.   McKinley (6-3) 12.28 8.78
12.   Huntington (6-3) 11.85 8.56
13.   Alexandria (5-4) 11.11 9.56
14. Rummel   (4-5) 10.94 9.22
15.   Northwood – Shr. (5-4) 10.62 8.67
16. John   Ehret (5-4) 10.46 7.67
17. Byrd   (3-6) 10.12 10.56
18. Jesuit   (3-6) 9.83 10.44
19.   Woodlawn – B.R. (2-7) 9.17 10.33
20.   Bonnabel (4-5) 8.77 7.78
21.   Pineville (2-7) 8.64 9.67
22.   Scotlandville (1-8) 8.40 11.11
23.   Lafayette (3-6) 8.40 9.33
24. Liberty   (2-7) 7.95 7.89
25. St.   Augustine (3-6) 7.18 8.67
Select Division II
Team PR SF
1. St.   Thomas More (9-0) 16.03 8.78
2.   Lafayette Chr. (8-1) 14.94 8.67
3. E.D.   White (9-0) 14.63 7.44
4. John F.   Kennedy (8-1) 14.39 8.00
5.   Teurlings Cath. (6-3) 13.43 9.22
6. Shaw   (7-2) 13.38 7.89
7. St.   Louis Cath. (7-2) 13.04 7.67
8. St.   Michael (7-2) 12.87 8.11
9. Madison   Prep (6-3) 12.43 7.78
10.   Livingston Coll. (6-3) 12.30 7.78
11.   Peabody (6-3) 12.20 7.11
12.   Evangel (5-4) 11.75 8.56
13.   McDonogh #35 (5-3) 11.66 7.75
14. Vandebilt Cath. (5-4) 11.58 8.44
15. De La   Salle (3-6) 10.84 9.56
16.   Northside (4-5) 10.72 9.33
17.   Istrouma (5-4) 10.44 7.89
18. BTW –   N.O. (4-5) 10.01 8.11
19.   Buckeye (5-4) 9.72 6.22
20.   Woodlawn – Shr. (4-5) 9.41 7.67
21.   Frederick Douglass (4-5) 9.11 7.22
22. L.B.   Landry (2-6) 9.06 8.88
23.   Belaire (2-7) 8.67 9.33
24. BTW –   Shr. (3-6) 8.22 7.56
25. Hannan   (0-9) 7.02 9.00
Select Division III
Team PR SF
1. Calvary   (9-0) 17.34 8.00
2. St.   Charles (9-0) 16.37 6.00
3. Newman   (8-0) 16.36 6.38
4.   University Lab (8-1) 14.26 7.11
5.   Catholic – N.I. (7-2) 14.12 7.67
6. Dunham   (7-2) 13.93 7.22
7.   D’Arbonne Woods (7-2) 13.52 6.00
8. Bunkie   (8-1) 13.44 6.11
9.   Parkview Baptist (8-1) 13.37 6.33
10. Notre   Dame (6-3) 12.67 7.22
11.   Episcopal (7-2) 12.62 6.33
12.   Northlake Chr. (6-2) 12.42 6.00
13. Pope   John Paul II (7-2) 12.32 4.67
14. Patrick   Taylor (7-2) 12.14 5.89
15.   Ascension Epis. (6-3) 11.83 6.56
16. Loyola   (4-4) 11.57 7.63
17. Sophie   B. Wright (5-4) 11.26 5.78
18. Menard   (6-3) 11.23

Cleaning up Rush Cleaners site paves route for city bus hub


The City of Alexandria will hold a public hearing next week on its intent to move forward with a brownfield cleanup of the former Rush Cleaners site on Bolton Avenue.

One the site is restored the city’s plan is to move the ATRANS transfer hub from 2nd & Murray to the former laundry tract.

The hearing on the proposal will be at 6 p.m. November 8 at the Bolton Avenue Community Center.

Brownfield refers to land previously used for commercial or industrial purposes and likely containing hazardous waste or pollution.

Rush operated on the 210 Bolton site for the last half of the 20th century. The city over time has purchased what is now essentially slum property.

Previous testing found no asbestos in the dilapidated structures on site but detected very high concentrations of carcinogenic dry cleaning chemicals in groundwater and soil tests to a depth of 32 feet.

EPA funding is being sought for the cleanup. With proper remediation and restoration the site can be reclaimed for other uses.

In this case, that would be as the focal point of a revitalized sector – safe, walkable, transit-oriented, with public and private investment.

LSUA announces groundbreaking partnership with LSU Health Sciences Centers to boost medical careers in Central Louisiana

Louisiana State University of Alexandria (LSUA) catalyzes a groundbreaking partnership with LSU Health Shreveport and LSU Health New Orleans, marking a significant advance in medical education within the state. 

Aimed at creating a robust pipeline of medical professionals, this alliance ensures LSUA graduates with qualifying MCAT scores earn guaranteed admissions interviews at either of the LSU Medical Schools.

LSUA will establish an interdisciplinary pre-med program to equip Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology majors with the skills and knowledge required to excel in medical school admissions. LSUA’s pre-med program will employ a comprehensive set of criteria that go beyond academic performance. This includes seminars on academic preparedness, financial literacy, and personal health, as well as engagement in diverse community service and co-curricular activities to foster a well-rounded understanding of the medical field. This initiative demonstrates the institution’s dedication to fostering a strong pipeline of well-prepared medical school applicants.

Nathan Sammons, LSUA’s Assistant Vice Chancellor of Engaged Teaching and Learning, remarked, “We are thrilled about this announcement because it marks a pivotal moment for students embarking on their medical careers. These collaborations significantly bolster the recruitment, preparation, and retention of aspiring physicians and, concurrently, enhance Louisiana’s healthcare landscape.”

Students may also become candidates for LSU’s rural medicine scholarship program, specifically designed to train doctors and medical professionals for service in the state’s rural communities. This scholarship combined with LSUA’s lowest undergraduate tuition in the state will build the most affordable path to becoming a physician in Louisiana.

Both med schools will appoint a liaison to work closely with LSUA, ensuring that the program’s curriculum and advisory services are seamlessly integrated.

“This initiative not only underscores our commitment to affordable, personalized education but also serves as a launchpad for ambitious futures in medical fields,” said Paul Coreil, Chancellor of LSUA. “We are excited to guide our students as they explore, connect, and discover the diverse opportunities this partnership opens up.”

Written by Adam Lord and Nathan Sammons 

Photo credit – Nathan Parish

Crush the Crisis program collects over 50 pounds of medicine

The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Rapides Regional Medical Center for the CRUSH THE CRISIS drug take back program on Oct. 28 at the Medical Terrace entrance.
Citizens were able to drive through and drop off old, out of date or unused medication.
Over 50 pounds of medicine was collected and will be incinerated. Weights are recorded and the total amount are recorded with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

‘Big Fish’ production by TLC has even bigger meaning

By Carmen Taffi, Wildcats Media 

Art imitates life in Theatre Louisiana Christian’s second show of the season, “Big Fish,” which opens Thursday night.

“Big Fish” is a musical by Andrew Lippa and John August, based on a 1988 novel by Daniel Wallace. 

This musical takes you on a journey through Edward Bloom’s life, as he is battling cancer. Before he dies, Edward wants to share all his stories, dreams and experiences with his son. The audience gets to see all the people Edward has crossed paths with who have ultimately changed his life. 

Tabitha Huffman, director of “Big Fish” and professor of theatre, found out recently her lifelong friend Tisha Falcon Lehfeldt is also battling cancer.

Fehfeldt is battling for her life with a rare type of cancer, and she has mentored thousands of people. One of the reasons so many know Tisha is that along with teaching about Jesus Christ on church stages, she is an adored radio personality on the big Christian radio station in Honolulu. Ironically enough, this station is called “The Fish FM.” Her afternoon show is called “The Joyride.” 

“When my musical director Enrico Cannella and I chose to do this musical six months ago, I had no idea my precious friend would be battling cancer, just like the lead role in our show,” Huffman said. “This production has taken on a whole new meaning for me. So, we are dedicating the tlc production of Big Fish, the Musical to Tisha Falcon Lehfeldt.” 

Although this musical has a character battling cancer, this is not what the play is about, Huffman said. 

“This play is about a man who is larger than life,” she said. “He has positivity, passion and a child-like spirit full of love for everyone he meets. This is Tisha Falcon Lehfeldt in a nutshell.” 

Senior theatre major Austin Tinsley plays the lead role of Eward Bloom in his final performance as an LCU student.

 “’Big Fish’ being my last show at LCU is so perfect because it ultimately sums up my college experience. Amazing stories, making best friends and most importantly meeting my wife,” Tinsley said.

“Big Fish” runs Nov. 2-3 and 9-10 at 7 p.m. and Nov 4 and 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for LCU students, faculty and staff; $12 for senior citizens and non-LCU students and $15 for general admission. Group rates of 10 or more start at $10. 

Visit to get your tickets. 

Sheriff’s Office Firewood Sale: November 2

The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office will hold a Firewood Sale on Thursday, Nov. 2 from 7am-1pm as part of its Firewood Project.
Firewood is $60 per ric, which is a 4×8-foot stack. There’s a two-ric limit. Money orders only. Receipts for money orders will be given at the guard shack on John Allison Drive. Pick up will be on Vandenberg Drive. For more information call 318-709-8489.

Notice of Death – October 30, 2023

Carolyn Casey Dufour
December 14, 1949 – October 27, 2023
Service: Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 10am at Hixson Brothers, Alexandria.
Mary Lou Hollis Smith
November 19, 1939 – October 28, 2023
Service: Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 10am at the LeCompte Cemetery, LeCompte.
Lisa Renee Knapp
September 21, 1968 – October 29, 2023
Service: Wednesday, November , 2023, 10am at Hixson Brothers, Jena.
Herbie Jo Fuqua
March 21, 1941 – October 28, 2023
Service: Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 1p at Hixson Brothers, Marksville.
The Rapides Parish Journal publishes paid obituaries – unlimited words and a photo, as well as unlimited access – $95. Contact your funeral provider or . Must be paid in advance of publication. (Notice of Death shown above are FREE of charge. You may email them to

Just tune it out

The activity was what you would expect for a 10-year-old’s birthday party at the bowling center.

Kids running back and forth from pizza to pinball machines and neon-lighted alleys.

Adults who had not rolled in years, if ever, hoping to get feet, belly, hands and ball at the same pace at the same time.

Most failing miserably but an occasional pocket hit and pins falling helter-skelter.

Nothing that would make one think anything out of the ordinary was on the horizon.

Just days earlier must have been the same kind of evening at the center in Lewiston, MA, only to have it turn into a nightmare.

There seems to be little we can do to keep killers from killing if that is what they are determined to do.

Or should it be there seems to be little we are willing to do?

Every time the Alexandria center’s doors slid opened Sunday it was to admit people armed with gifts, bowling bags, toddlers and the like, not rifles meant to murder. Lucky us.

Standing in line to refill the cola pitcher, I mentioned to the woman behind me that I could not help but think of the Maine bowling alley.

The blank expression was unexpected.

“You know, the murders in the Maine bowling center,” I explained.

“Oh that’s where it was? Heard it happened and just tuned it out. Don’t need bad news,” she said while juggling cola and toddler.

Just tune it out. Maybe that’s where we lost our way.

ASH, Pineville drop District 2-5A contests

ASH junior JT Lindsey rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the Trojans’ 28-23 loss to West Monroe on Friday night. (Photo by BRET H. MCCORMICK, Journal Sports) 

By BRET H. MCCORMICK, Journal Sports

A single play can change the dynamic of a football game.

For Alexandria Senior High that single play happened on two consecutive snaps Friday night.

Leading 10-7, the Trojans were marching in for what looked like another touchdown on the first drive of the second half when senior EJ Scott fumbled just shy of the goal line.

West Monroe recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback, and the Rebels took the lead on the next play when Kedrian McNeil ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run on their way to a 28-23 victory.

Star senior receiver David Moore, called into action at cornerback, made two huge plays for the Rebels (8-1, 4-0 District 2-5A). A few plays after forcing the Scott fumble near the goal line, Moore jumped a pass by ASH senior quarterback Ty Feaster and returned it 53 yards for a 21-10 West Monroe lead just a few minutes into the third quarter.

“It was a 21-point swing is what it turned into because we turned it over,” ASH coach Thomas Bachman said. “That 90 seconds of game clock was a huge part of the ball game.”

The Trojans (5-4, 2-2), who outgained West Monroe by more than 100 yards in the game, refused to fold despite being down by two scores.

JT Lindsey’s second TD run of the game, a 1-yard plunge, cut the West Monroe lead to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, but the Rebels answered right back as senior quarterback Hayden Federico sidestepped a sack and hit a wide-open McNeil for a 30-yard score.

The Trojans drove right back down the field and again cut the deficit to one score on a 5-yard pass from Feaster to Amyrion Mingo. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, meaning the Trojans trailed by five, needing a stop and a touchdown to win.

ASH got the defensive stand, forcing the Rebels to punt, and took over with 1:37 to play, needing to go 75 yards for a game-winning TD. However, Feaster’s first-down pass was intercepted by West Monroe to thwart the Trojans’ comeback attempt.

“It felt like we gave that one away to be honest with you,” Bachman said. “Those are the ones that eat at you. … I felt like we had an opportunity to win this one by a few scores, and ultimately we didn’t do it.”

Feaster completed 19 of 33 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two critical interceptions. Junior Darius Washington caught a season-high 10 passes for 152 yards as the Trojans compiled more than 400 yards of offense.

The Trojans couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, forcing the Rebels into a three-and-out on their opening drive and then covering 80 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead courtesy of a 50-yard touchdown run by Lindsey, who finished with 139 yards and two scores on 24 carries.

After West Monroe tied the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Federico to Moore, ASH took a three-point lead into halftime on a 20-yard field goal by senior Bodie Van Dyke on the final play of the second quarter.


Fullback Marlon Owens rushed for two first-half touchdowns, while Luke Jones added a 41-yard touchdown in the third quarter as the Chiefs (6-3, 1-3 District 2-5A) opened a 21-0 lead.

Ayden Tate’s 7-yard touchdown in the game’s final minutes was the lone score for the Rebels, who couldn’t take advantage of three West Ouachita turnovers.

Tate lost two costly fumbles for the Rebels, which opened the door for fellow sophomore Hy’keem Mix in the backfield. Mix led the Rebels (2-7, 0-4) with 109 rushing yards on 21 carries, while Tate added 72 rushing yards.

Senior defensive end Sebastian Molette forced a Chief fumble with a big hit in the backfield and hopped on the ball to recover it as well for one of the Rebels’ three forced turnovers. Senior defensive tackle Justin Belgard also had a fumble recovery for the Rebels, while junior cornerback Briant Dearborne made an interception.

Ponthier, Norris lift Tioga to epic OT victory over Peabody

By BRET H. MCCORMICK, Journal Sports

The Tioga Indians were down to their final snap last Friday night.

Fourth and goal, at the 4-yard line, trailing by six points in overtime.

The ball belonged in the hands of only one person.

Not Kenny Ponthier, the sophomore backup running back who stepped into a starring role Friday night with a game-high 165 yards and three touchdowns.

Not Cace Malone, the sophomore quarterback whose 22-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter appeared to give the Indians a win over rival Peabody.

With their backs against the wall, Tioga needed a big play from their senior superstar, Ja’Corian Norris, the do-everything free safety, wide receiver and kick returner who had only touched the ball four times all game.

Norris, lined up as the outside receiver in a bunch formation to the right, took a pitch in the backfield after Malone faked a handoff to Ponthier. Running to his left, Norris eluded a Peabody defender at the 12-yard line, cut up field near the hash marks, split two Warhorses at the 4, and plunged his way into the end zone for his first rushing and 10th total touchdown of the season.

“When I heard the play call, I just knew I had to get in there – no questions asked, no doubt about it,” Norris said. “That’s the only thing I could do. I wasn’t gonna stop until I got in there.”

Tioga coach Kevin Cook said despite how important Ponthier and Malone were in the victory, the last play had to be called for either Norris or fellow senior Josh Loyd.

“If we’re gonna lose, we’re gonna lose with our best players touching the football,” Cook said.

But they didn’t lose, thanks to Norris and freshman kicker Ethan Bridges. After the touchdown run, the Indians still needed to make an extra point, something they hadn’t done to that point on the night.

Bridges, who missed two PATs and had a third go awry on a bad snap, calmly took two steps forward and split the uprights to send the Indians and their fans into a celebratory frenzy as Tioga pulled out an unlikely 33-32 victory on Senior Night at The Reservation.

“He just had to make the one tonight, and he made the one that he needed to when he needed to,” Cook said.

It was an absolute classic, as the Indians improved to 7-2 on the season and 2-1 in District 2-4A. They also stayed in the running for a first-round bye in the Division I Select playoffs.

The loss, though tough to swallow for the Warhorses (6-3, 1-2), proved just how far they have come under second-year coach Harry Coleman, who inherited a team that went 0-10 the year before his arrival.

Coleman said the Warhorses “played their tails off” and came up one tackle short of victory.

“You can’t even put a meter out there to show the type of effort them boys gave,” Coleman said. “We got about five, six kids going both ways because of injuries, not wanting to come off the field. That’s effort. That’s not wanting to lose, and I can take that any day.”

Peabody took a 12-6 lead into halftime thanks to a 91-yard touchdown run by senior Dartavin Depass in the second quarter followed by an 80-yard punt return by junior TJ Hullaby.

The Warhorses appeared to be in firm control after an 80-yard drive to start the third quarter took more than 10 minutes off the clock and ended with a 9-yard touchdown run by Depass that put Peabody ahead 18-6.

But Tioga refused to back down, answering that drive with back-to-back touchdowns by Ponthier, who plowed over a Peabody defender for an 11-yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter.

The Indians then forced a turnover as senior linebacker Elliott Fruge sacked Peabody quarterback Larry Roberts III and forced a fumble that was recovered by senior defensive lineman Jayden Padgett.

On the next play, Ponthier raced in for his third touchdown of the game from 17 yards out to give Tioga a 20-18 lead. Malone’s 22-yard run with 3:25 remaining in regulation gave the Indians a 26-18 lead, but Bridges’ missed extra point kept it a one-score game.

It took Peabody less than a minute to answer as the Warhorses tied the score when Depass caught a screen pass from Roberts and ran 45 yards for the score and then took a pitch off right tackle for the 2-point conversion to tie the score at 26.

Tioga defensive coordinator John Muder said the Indians’ game plan was to try to limit Hullaby’s touches, and aside from the punt return TD he had just four receptions for 26 yards.

But Depass stepped up in a big way for the Warhorses with team highs of 155 rushing yards and 57 receiving yards.

Tioga won the coin toss prior to overtime and elected to go on defense. Peabody struck first with a 4-yard rushing TD by Roberts, but the Indian defense stood tall on the 2-point conversion and stopped Depass short of the goal line.

That set the stage for the game-winning heroics of Norris and Bridges.

“Props to them. That’s a good team over there, good players, man,” Norris said. “They fought. We fought. We just came out here and put it in and won.”

Coleman congratulated the Indians on a hard-fought win, but he added that Friday’s outcome showed how dangerous the Warhorses can be.

“A couple plays here and there, the outcome is different,” he said. “So we showed that we can be a force to be reckoned with.”

Cook said he was extremely pleased with the resiliency the Indians showed to battle back from a two-score deficit and then not to get rattled after the Warhorses tied the game late in regulation.

“Their kids played their hearts out. Both teams played their hearts out,” Cook said. “We were blessed to come out on top. I’m really proud of our kids. They could have given up when we were down. They had a 10-minute drive for a touchdown to go up by a couple of scores. It would be easy to hang your head, but our kids fought back and made some plays.”

Vernon Parish man draws $198,000 bail

Rapides felony bookings are accusations, not convictions.

October 27
Dylan Bruno, 25, New Llano – fugitive, felony conspiracy, burglary eight counts, criminal damage five counts, firearm possession by convicted felon, $198,000 bail;

Renea Enos, 61, San Diego, CA — resisting officer, aggravated battery, no bail set;

John Harris, 52, Alexandria — video voyeurism two counts, felony intimidation non-consensual disclosure of private image seven counts, no bail set;

Jaiden Rosier, 19, Dry Prong — unlawful comm telephone/telecom, improper language/harassing, probation violation, contempt three counts, felony conspiracy, burglary, $30,000 bail;

Corey Wooten, 23, Jena — illegal carrying firearm with drugs, no bail set.

October 28
Dillon Aught, 18, Alexandria — simple strangle domestic abuse strangulation, $2,500 bail;

Jacoby Mcneal, 22, Alexandria — illegal possession stolen firearm, false imprisonment with dangerous weapon, aggravated battery 2nd degree four counts, cruelty to juveniles family offenses two counts, assault two counts, felony terrorizing, disturbing peace sound system four counts, no bail set.

Possession with intent, body armor an expensive combination

Rapides felony drug bookings are accusations, not convictions.

October 26
April Neathery, 38, Pineville — possession, resisting officer, $3,000 bail;

Jerry Wales Jr., 61, Boyce — possession with intent, unlawful use/possession body armor, $91,500 bail;

Tamara Williford, 35, Montgomery — possession with intent two counts, illegal carrying firearm with drugs, no bail set.

October 27
Ashley Daenen, 41, Alexandria — possession, $12,500 bail;

Christopher Mayeaux, 37, Pineville — possession two counts, $4,500 bail.

October 28
Eryka Logan, 35, Pineville — possession, obstruction of justice evidence tampering, theft two counts, contempt, fugitive, $16,500 bail.

Notice of Death – October 29, 2023

Michael Larry Marchand
July 1, 1946 – October 26, 2023
Service: Monday, October 30, 2023, 2pm at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, Alexandria
William Morgan Patten
December 6, 1939 – October 25, 2023
Service: Monday, October 30, 2023,11:30am at Hixson Brothers, Marksville.
Carolyn Casey Dufour
December 14, 1949 – October 27, 2023
Service: Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 10am at Hixson Brothers, Alexandria.
Mary Lou Hollis Smith
November 19, 1939 – October 28, 2023
Service: Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 10am at the LeCompte Cemetery, LeCompte.
Herbie Jo Fuqua
March 21, 1941 – October 28, 2023
Service: Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 1p at Hixson Brothers, Marksville.
The Rapides Parish Journal publishes paid obituaries – unlimited words and a photo, as well as unlimited access – $95. Contact your funeral provider or . Must be paid in advance of publication. (Notice of Death shown above are FREE of charge. You may email them to

NSU cancels season in wake of shooting death of football player; Laird resigns as coach

Northwestern State football coach Brad Laird resigned Thursday and the university announced cancellation of its last four games related to the shooting death of junior safety Ronnie Caldwell Jr. (NSU photo)

NATCHITOCHES — National media coverage followed Thursday afternoon’s surprising announcement by Northwestern State president Dr. Marcus Jones that the university has canceled the rest of its football season due to the recent shooting death of junior safety Ronnie Caldwell, with Jones citing concerns for the mental health and well-being of its student-athletes as the primary reason for the decision.

Many of the country’s primary news and sports news platforms carried coverage of the decision, which generated extensive social media traffic and commentary. NSU will not play its final four games in an 11-game schedule. It already cancelled an Oct. 14 game just two days after the shooting.

Caldwell, a junior safety from Cedar Park, Texas, in the Austin metroplex, played in 11 games last year, starting 10, but had not played this season due to a foot injury. He traveled  with the team in a student coaching capacity, helping other defensive backs with their technique and schemes, and working with coaching staff members in the press box during games. He was hoping to play in the final month of the season.

His death, in an Oct. 12 early morning shooting where he lived at the Quad Apartment Complex across from campus, remains under investigation by the Natchitoches Police Department. Two men, one a former NSU teammate and the other a 27-year-old who was not an NSU student but was one of Caldwell’s roommates, have been arrested in connection with the case on drugs and weapons charges. No charges relating directly to Caldwell’s death have been  public as of late Thursday.

Northwestern cancelled its Oct. 14 game at Nicholls, but resumed its schedule a week ago (Oct. 19) at home in an emotionally-charged game against Southeastern, briefly leading but dropping a 37-20 decision. Players not in uniform and team personnel wore black No. 23 T-shirts with Caldwell’s name, paying tribute to the business administration major who made the Southland Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll in 2022 for carrying at least a 3.0 grade point average during the season. This summer, Caldwell helped coach a local youth league team of 9-year-old boys.

Many players, coaches and team personnel traveled to Austin Saturday to attend Caldwell’s funeral, where head coach Brad Laird spoke.

“Ronnie was a beloved member of our community, and we miss him dearly,” said Jones. “While our instinct was to return to the field of play following his death, we’ve since learned that the hurt on our team was too deep. Now it is in the best interest of our players, coaches, and staff to pause and to take this time to mourn, to heal, and to support Ronnie’s family.”

The school also announced Thursday the resignation of Laird, who was in his sixth season as coach after nine years at his alma mater as an assistant. Laird was a star quarterback for the Demons from 1991-96, and still holds the NSU career passing record. He is in the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame for his achievements at Ruston High School, where he was the quarterback on the Bearcats’ unbeaten 1990 state championship team which earned a national No. 1 ranking from USA Today.

“Due to the loss of Ronnie and the emotional burden it has caused me, I don’t feel I can give my all to these players or this program,” Laird said. “Any coach will tell you that their players become like family, so the loss of Ronnie was like losing a son. I love this program and this university and I know it will persevere and move forward with the competitive spirit that is at the core of our DNA.”

“We appreciate Coach Laird’s long-term investment in Northwestern State football. From his undergraduate time as a record-setting quarterback to his year spent overseeing the university’s alumni office to coaching, he has been a vital member of the team,” said Kevin Bostian, NSU’s athletic director. “While we are disappointed not to be able to finish the season, we are confident that better days lie ahead for Northwestern State football.”

Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, Weston Glaser, will step in as interim head coach while the athletic department begins an immediate search for its next head coach. However, the team will not practice and it is unclear if any team activities will be held for the rest of the year. Counseling and other services are being made available to team members and others impacted, officials said.

A national search for a new head coach is already underway, officials said. Jones said there will be a 2024 season for NSU football.

“I want to thank our team, family, friends and the whole Northwestern State community for your understanding of this difficult decision,” Jones said. “We appreciate your support during this challenging time.”

The university’s press release did not immediately address considerations related to the Nov. 3-4 homecoming weekend, which was to culminate with an afternoon football game.

The decision also impacts McNeese State’s homecoming this weekend. NSU was scheduled to play at McNeese Saturday night.

“This is very disappointing for all of us,” said McNeese director of athletics Heath Schroyer, speaking at an afternoon press conference in Lake Charles. “I feel for the Northwestern State players, coaches and administrators for what they are going through. I’m also disappointed for our fans. I am with them in wanting to see the game.”

Schroyer said if the decision had been made earlier this week, he would have searched nationwide to find an opponent for Saturday. There was no indication before Thursday, McNeese officials said.

McNeese will stage most other homecoming activities this weekend, and introduce its homecoming court at halftime of its final home game next month.