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|Players have fond memories of playing for Faircloth|
Shock, disbelief and very fond memories were the reaction from former Vidalia High football players to longtime Vidalia High football coach Dee Faircloth announcing his retirement from the school effective December 31.
Vidalia assistant football coach Gary Paul Parnham played for Faircloth for four years in the 1980s and has been an assistant for Faircloth the past 16 years.
"Coach Faircloth has been a fixture and it's going to be tough to go up there after Christmas and not see him there," Parnham said. "He's been like a second father to me. He's been a great mentor and has taught me so much. He does so much that a lot of people don't see."
Trinity Episcopal head football coach David King, who led the Saints to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class A state championship this season, played for Faircloth as a freshman before transferring to Adams County Christian School.
"Coach Faircloth is Vidalia High to a lot of people," King said. "I've always thought the world of him. He's a throwback. He washed all the clothes and worked on the field. I remember in my youth going to get a pizza and seeing his car there all the time. He'll always be a big part of Vidalia High."
District Attorney Brad Burget, who graduated from Vidalia in 1990 after playing for Faircloth, said he is in shock that Faircloth is no longer head coach at Vidalia.
"Coach Faircloth is Vidalia High School football," Burget said. "He was a father figure to me. He played a major part in developing me as a young man. That's something I couldn't see then, but I see now. I hate to see it coming to an end, because there were some goals I would have liked to have seen him reach. But it's amazing what he accomplished while he was there."
Eddie Ray Jackson was the Class 2A Offensive Player of the Year in 1985 before signing with Southern Miss and playing in the same backfield as Brett Favre.
"I don't know where to start when it comes to Coach Faircloth," Jackson said. "There is just so many things. He was always someone you could talk to, which I thought was very special. He was very comical, yet very serious."
Jackson said Faircloth was a great motivator.
"I remember when we played Tallulah for the district championship and Coach Faircloth was telling us about a running back (Benton Thomas) they had who was big and fast and had averaged 200 yards a game in the past three games," Jackson said. "Coach really put it in our minds that if we stopped him, we had a real good chance to win. We won that game (38-0) and held him to 50 yards."
Jackson also remembers a playoff game against DeQuincy in 1984 that the Vikings won 21-14 in which the then-senior back rushed for 343 yards on 41 carries.
"They had a guy named Tommy Addison who ran the 100-yard dash in 9.7," Jackson said. "Coach kept saying we didn't have anybody who could catch him, including Eddie Ray Jackson. I caught him from behind twice and outran him on two touchdowns. I had to prove to Coach that he was not as fast as I was. But he motivated me to do what I did."
Jena High head coach Bernie Cooley, who played for Faircloth back in the 1980s, said his mentor will be missed.
"Football is losing a great coach and a great man," Cooley said. "There's no telling how many people he has inspired in football and in life over the years."
Jackie Johnston, who played for Faircloth in the late 1970s, now does play-by-play for Vidalia High football games.
"He's our Bobby Bowden," Johnston said. "He deserves to do what he wants to do."
Johnston said he will always remember Faircloth for his wit.
"He has a stand-up comedy routine," Johnston said. "I think coaching was just a hobby."
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