BENTON — Natchitoches Central quarterback Robert Woodard had a perfect view of what everyone else at Tiger Stadium saw in the second half of Friday night’s game.
As Woodard ran for two pivotal third-quarter touchdowns, he saw, “The O-line was pushing them.”
Behind that aggressive, punishing line, the Chiefs erased a six-point halftime deficit and claimed their first road win of the season, 20-12, over Benton.
“We were off in all facets in the first half,” Chiefs coach Brandon Helms said. “We had to go back and re-establish ourselves. We wanted to establish the running game and we did that and owned the third quarter. That was the big thing.”
Despite dominating possession and the scoreboard in the third quarter, the Chiefs (2-1) saw a special teams breakdown keep them from takng complete control of the game.
After Woodard’s second scoring run — a 2-yarder with 3:13 to play in the third — Benton’s Keith English took the ensuing kickoff back 87 yards for a touchdown.
Benton went for the 2-point conversion but could not break through against the Natchitoches defensive line, which played as well as its offensive counterparts in the second half.
“They’re a lot bigger than us up front,” Benton coach Caleb Guidry said. “They were able to use some of that mass and muscle and push us around. It’s a well-coached bunch. They saw what we were doing in the secondary and they came back and tried to ground and pound on us and turn us back on what we’re used to doing.”
After managing just 101 yards offense in the first half, the Chiefs set the tone with an eight-play, 69-yard drive to start the second half. All eight plays were runs with Woodard capping the drive on a 17-yard keeper with 10:06 to play in the third.
Oliver Woodward’s extra point gave Natchitoches a lead it would not relinquish.
After English’s kick return, the game returned to the defense-dominated form it showed in the first half when Benton’s Zach Pierson scored from 29 yards out for the only points of the half at the 8:39 mark of the second quarter.
The Chiefs clung to their two-point lead until defensive lineman Jaylon Cassen plowed in from 2 yards out with just less than a minute to play to provide the final margin.
“It should be a touchdown every time with him,” Woodard said of the powerful Cassen. “It would be hard to bring him down.”
Connect with Jason Pugh on Twitter at @JasonSPugh.