By Doug Ireland
Tonzaiha Bland was a building block for the Logansport High School football team the last four years, with his bulk and sheer strength providing a game-changing attribute for the Tigers on the offensive and defensive lines.
He has also been an anchor for the team and a shining example for Logansport students of all ages with his academic excellence.
That combination earned Bland, a senior at LHS, a place among nine north Louisiana senior scholar-athletes honored last week in Shreveport at the annual National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet.
Receiving NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards and $500 scholarship grants along with Bland were Caleb Aillet of Byrd, West Monroe’s Tag Banks, 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.
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. Logansport Tigers’ coach Kevin Magee nominated Bland.
Bland was anything but for the Tigers, who reached the Class A state finals in his senior season. 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, or nursing either at Tech or Northwestern.
The event hosted by the NFF’s S.M. McNaughton Chapter of North Louisiana is annually coordinated by Logansport native Toni Mitchell Goodin, the chapter’s secretary.
Retired Northwestern football coach Sam Goodwin received the McNaughton chapter’s Contributions to Amateur Football Award. He is the winningest football coach in Northwestern history with 102 wins from 1983-99. His Demons won conference championships in 1984, 1988, 1997 and 1998, making FCS playoff appearances in the latter three seasons and reaching the national semifinals in 1998.
The winner of the McNaughton Chapter’s Distinguished American Award was George Sirven, who has managed KTBS-TV as the station emerged as a significant community partner with its sponsorship of major events such as the Freedom Fest Fourth of July celebration, and promotion of many civic causes including St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Last fall, KTBS celebrated the 25th anniversary of its popular Friday Football Fever scoreboard show, which was just named Best Sports Show by the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters. The native Cuban is a naturalized American citizen who early in his television career shot high school football footage for Griffin when both worked for KSLA-TV.