Four local senior standouts included on National Football watch list

From left are Chiefs coach James Wilkerson, St. Mary’s senior lineman Gavin LaGrange, NCHS safety and receiver Justin Aaron, Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr., SMHS receiver and defensive back Graeme Fidelak, Chiefs’ tailback Caylin Demars and Tigers coach Aaron York. The four players are on the National Football Foundation’s Ark-La-Tex Scholar-Athlete Watch List.

Four of the seniors leading Natchitoches Central and St. Mary’s football teams to success on Friday nights have a winning track record in the classrooms week after week. Because they are outstanding academically and in football, Justin Aaron, Caylin Demars, Graeme Fidelak and Gavin LaGrange have earned special status around north Louisiana and beyond.

NCHS players Aaron and Demars, and Fidelak and LaGrange of St. Mary’s, are among 30 seniors who have qualified for the National Football Foundation’s Ark-La-Tex Scholar-Athlete Watch List

This article published in the Oct. 9, 2021, print edition
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NFF Ark-La-Tex Scholar-Athlete Watch List members must have a 3.2 grade point average or better, must be key players for their teams, and must participate in non-sports extracurricular activities at their schools.

Annually, after each season, the NFF’s S.M. McNaughton Chapter solicits nominations for its scholarship program, and as many as eight senior scholar-athletes are honored at a banquet in Shreveport. This summer, St. Mary’s Patrick Vienne was recognized as one of the eight 2020 winners.

This Watch List is designed to provide recognition for not just the ultimate scholarship winners, but all of the young men in the Ark-La-Tex, including Louisiana’s entire 318 area code and from Vernon Parish, who are high-achieving senior football players. Aaron, also a basketball player for the Chiefs, is in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Honor Society. He is considering being a teacher and coach. LaGrange is a powerlifter for the Tigers who is active in FCA and Pro-Life. He plans to move to Florida or Texas and coach and teach.

Fidelak, who also is an all-district baseball player at St. Mary’s, is in the National Honor Society, Beta Club, and Future Business Leaders of America. He hasn’t settled on a college choice, but has narrowed his list to UL Lafayette, Arkansas or Texas A&M, because he wants to stay in the area. He plans to major in business. Demars is active in FCA and other organizations at NCHS. He’s considering majoring in kinesiology to become a physical therapist, or perhaps an orthodontist, although he can’t rule out teaching and coaching.

The NFF McNaughton Chapter is led by president Leo Sanford, a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member and former All-Pro linebacker for the Chicago Cardinals, and a center on the 1958 NFL champion Baltimore Colts. Other board members are Dennis Bamburg, Jerry Byrd Jr., Toni Goodin, Doug Ireland, Curt Joiner, Bill McConathy, Tag Rome and Terry Slack. Additionally, KTBS Channel 3 in Shreveport is honoring the memory and legacy of former NFF Board member Bob Griffin, the iconic sportscaster at KSLA and then KTBS for over 50 years, by weekly presentations of a Griffin’s Game Ball to one of the players on the NFF Scholar-Athlete Watch List.

The winners are being featured by KTBS weekly, and are eligible for a separate Griffin’s Game Ball Scholar-Athlete Scholarship at the close of the 2021 season, presented by KTBS. Demars was spotlighted after the Chiefs beat Airline in the District 1-5A opener. Griffin, a 2009 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee as a sports journalist, covered Ark-La-Tex high school football in an incredible six decades before he passed away early in 2020. Last year, Griffin’s family members traveled around the area throughout the season presenting Griffin’s Game Balls to winning teams in the “Griffin’s Game of the Week” as he did for years.

Because of Griffin’s commitment to the NFF Scholar-Athlete program, the S.M. McNaughton Chapter of the NFF and KTBS have created this partnership to celebrate these outstanding seniors.