Natchitoches Central’s Ryan Demattie remembers what it was like trying to tackle Jaylon Casson in middle school.
It wasn’t fun for the Chiefs linebacker and it hasn’t proven to bring any joy to opposing high school defenses as well.
Casson, a 5-foot-8, 265-pound defensive lineman by trade, proved to be the difference on the offensive side of the ball Friday night, scoring the only touchdown of the game in the Chiefs’ 10-3 victory over Captain Shreve at Lee Hedges Stadium.
“I love it,” said Casson, whose 3-yard run at the 8:39 mark of the second quarter proved to be the difference in the game.
“The O-line blocks and we get a good push and take it into the end zone. That’s the point of it.”
Casson was at the point of attack for the strength of the Chiefs — their defense — all night.
The Natchitoches Central front four made life tough for Captain Shreve’s offense, keeping the big plays under wraps and forcing the Gators (2-2) to string together long drives.
“I don’t like these slobberknockers, that’s for sure, but our defense is playing outstanding right now,” Natchitoches Central coach Brandon Helms said. “I can’t credit our defensive staff enough for having kids prepared and doing the right thing, kids believing in the system and we’re learning to win with defense now. Last year, we outscored people. This year, we’re letting our defense carry us.”
Either team could have successfully pinned its hopes on the defensive side of the ball Friday night.
Shreve won the turnover battle 3-1, but its lone turnover proved to be costly. After quarterback Raijon Linder fumbled at the Shreve 33, the Chiefs (3-1) cashed in with a 21-yard Oliver Woodward field goal, giving Natchitoches plenty of cushion.
“They played lights out,” Shreve head coach Richard Lary said. “I feel like we didn’t make plays. I think they intimidated us. We kind of lost it. We’ve got to grow up.”
Growing up, Demattie was forced to tackle Casson.
On nights like Friday, Demattie sat back and had several free runs at Shreve ballcarriers because of Casson and his buddies up front.
“I love the front four and I give them tons of credit,” said Demattie, whose defense has surrendered 24 points in the last three weeks. “They make our jobs easier and they do a very good job themselves.”
Despite the stifling effort by Natchitoches Central’s defense, the Gators remained in the game because of the efforts of their defense, led by defensive linemen Kyle Mack and Nero Young.
The pair kept constant pressure on Chiefs quarterback Robert Woodard and kept him under wraps for the most part.
For the second straight week, Natchitoches Central moved the ball well until reaching the red zone. And, for the second straight week, a Casson touchdown provided the margin of victory.
Against Benton, Casson capped Natchitoches’ 20-12 victory with a 2-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. Casson has grown comfortable enough in the offensive backfield that he has learned to freelance.
On his scoring run Friday night, Casson kicked out to the right side instead of just muscling ahead as he had done on the play before — a 6-yard carry on first-and-goal from the 9.
With consecutive road wins under his team’s belt, Helms could only chuckle at the thought of his 265-pound road grader playing like a speedy tailback.
“We do what we do to win,” Helms said. “He thinks he can read something now and he’s taking off running sideways, but we’ll work on it, we’ll work on it.”
Connect with Jason Pugh on Twitter at @JasonSPugh.