By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
Nine of the area’s finest senior football scholar-athletes from last fall’s high school season will be honored Thursday night at the annual National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport.
Featured S.M McNaughton Chapter North Louisiana NFF Scholar-Athletes today are Caleb Aillet of Byrd, West Monroe’s Tag Banks, and Tonzaiha Bland of Logansport.
CALEB AILLET, Byrd High School
Aillet was a first-team All-District 1-5A choice at Center for the Yellow Jackets last fall, and earned first-team All-City honors. He was an Academic All-State Composite Team member.
His 4.0 GPA ranks him 17th in a class of 363, and is reflected with his 33 score on the ACT.
Aillet helped Byrd share the 1-5A championship in 2021 for coach Stacey Ballew. He was part of the Division I state finalist Yellow Jackets squad in 2020.
TAG BANKS, West Monroe High School
Banks was a first-team all-district linebacker who made 127 tackles and a pick-six interception return TD last fall for the Rebels, who again made a deep playoff run. A four-year football letterman for coach Jerry Arledge at WMHS, Banks has played two seasons of baseball and throws the javelin for the track and field team.
He is a National Honors Society member who made the Academic All-State Composite Team in football. Carrying a perfect 4.0 GPA, Banks ranks first in a class of 447 seniors at West Monroe.
He is in the Biology Club, Spanish Club and Interact Club.
TONZAIHA BLAND, Logansport High School
Bland was anything but for the Tigers, who reached the Class A state finals in his senior season. Coach Kevin Magee says Bland is by far the strongest player he’s ever coached, and even considering Magee’s years as quarterback at Northwestern State, Bland may be as strong as any player he’s been around. A 415-pound bench press and a 650-pound squad lift make the case.
An offensive and defensive lineman for the Tigers, Bland made LSWA and LHSCA All-State first team on the defensive front. He earned first-team All-District 3-1A honors both ways in his last two seasons at LHS. He is a shot putter on the track and field team.
Bland carries a 3.2 GPA and plans to major in architecture at Louisiana Tech.
Other NFF scholar-athletes are St. Mary’s Graeme Fidelak, Luke Gibson of Mangham, Connor Heard from Minden, Benton’s R.J. Moore and Jed Worthey III of Cedar Creek.
Each will receive a $500 scholarship award for their college of choice.
Evan Howe of North DeSoto is the first recipient of the KTBS/Johnny’s Pizza Bob Griffin Scholarship, named in tribute of the iconic local TV sportscaster who covered area high school football and other sports for over a half-century. Griffin was also on the local NFF chapter’s board of directors.
Head football coaches around north Louisiana nominated senior players who carry at least a 3.2 cumulative grade point average, have earned all-district honors and are involved in extracurricular activities.
The event hosted by the NFF’s S.M. McNaughton Chapter of North Louisiana begins with a social hour at 6 at East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport. Tickets ($40 individual, $320 for a table of eight) are available by calling McNaughton Chapter secretary Toni Goodin at 318-347-4453.