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Story Archives: Vidalia stayed with South Natchez
|Vidalia stayed with South Natchez|
Editor's note: Former Vidalia High football coach Dalton "Dee" Faircloth was head football coach at Vidalia High from 1969 to 2009.
Concordia Sentinel summer intern Jake Martin sat down with Faircloth and asked the longtime Viking coach to pick his top five football games from his 41-year career at the school. This is the fourth of a five-part series.
By Jake Martin
It was Louisiana vs. Mississippi, a highly-ranked 2A squad in Louisiana vs. the top-ranked team in Mississippi, it was Vidalia vs. South Natchez and it was Dee Faircloth's No. 2 most memorable game.
The year was 1982 and South Natchez was riding high after winning the 1981 5A State Championship - the first ever championship in the state using a playoff system.
Faircloth was hesitant about playing the Colonels in a regular season game, but gave in to South Natchez head coach Ed Reed.
"I had Keith Woodside, and I had a good ball club coming back. Ed Reed called me and said 'Dee, let's play next year,' and I said 'Coach, have you lost your mind? We can't compete with the state champion in Mississippi 5A,'" Faircloth said. "He said 'Ah, Coach it'll be good for Natchez and Vidalia,' so being an idiot like I am, I said 'Okay, can you play us over here?'"
By the time the Vikings and Colonels would meet, the Colonels were under new leadership.
"(Reed) left and went to Tuscaloosa Central High in Alabama, and former Colonel all-State performer Joey Porter was the head coach then," Faircloth said. "That was one of my best friends ever. They were unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Mississippi, and we were unbeaten and ranked pretty high in Louisiana."
Former Vidalia quarterback and then assistant coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said it would be the No. 1 most memorable game he's seen at Vidalia.
"That's one I'll always remember, for sure," Hoffpauir said. "It was that David against Goliath kind of deal. We didn't know what to expect."
During the week, Vidalia businessman Fred Falkenheiner came to Faircloth with a plan to motivate the Vikings and get ready to play Friday.
"Fred came to me and said, 'We're going to get these boys fired up. I'm going to get an airplane and drop these leaflets that say we're going to whip y'all and make it look like they were from Natchez,'" Faircloth said. "We were out at practice and here comes the plane. They started dropping the leaflets and the wind was blowing so hard it blew all the leaflets over to the levee. I knew what it was, so I had to say, 'Boys, go on out that gate and see what those things are.' I told him later, 'Dang Fred, you and your plans.'"
"It didn't go as planned, let's just put it like that," Hoffpauir said. "We had to get them to chase the leaflets. The excitement factor was unreal that whole week leading up to that game. We played 'em hard and played 'em tough. We knew our kids wouldn't be intimidated. We gave them the best shot we had, but we came up short. Our little rascals battled their hearts out."
The game garnered the attention of people all around the area and when it came down to game time, the stadium was filled with fans from Natchez and Vidalia.
"I never will forget it. It was the only game in town," Faircloth said. "Everybody else either had an open date or had played on Thursday. It was the biggest crowd that's ever been in (Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium). Look, cars were parked all the way down to the Mobil station."
"It reminded me of when we played the state championship game in 1966 and I happened to be on that team," Hoffpauir said. "We had that many people there or more for the game against South Natchez, and a lot of those people were there to see Woodside. He was one of those once in a lifetime guys, and he didn't disappoint that night. People knew that he was for real, and everyone knew who he was after that game."
As the game started getting closer, Faircloth and Hoffpauir started to get cold feet.
"At about four o'clock that evening, me and Coach were sitting in the office and saw cars start to fill up the parking lot," Hoffpauir said. "More and more cars came in and by five o'clock, it had already filled up. Me and Coach looked at each other and went 'Gosh, what have we got ourselves into.'"
Faircloth said his players had never seen a crowd that big before and said the expressions on their faces during warm-ups said it all.
"You should have seen how big their eyes got," Faircloth said. "It was about seven (thousand) there. It was a hellacious crowd. I remember one of the doctors in Natchez telling me, 'That was the best football game I've ever seen.'"
Faircloth said that the game got so much publicity around the area that it helped the would-be NFL talent Woodside get a scholarship to Texas A&M.
"Woodside put on a clinic," Faircloth said. "That game probably got Woodside a scholarship because he did so well."
Woodside posted X-box-like stats with 204 yards rushing on 27 carries and 114 yards receiving with two touchdowns.
South Natchez struck first blood after quarterback Bill Pressgrove connected with future Southern Miss running back Randolph Brown on a 37-yard touchdown reception. Pressgrove followed that drive up with a 45-yard run to give the Colonels a 14-0 lead with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings came charging back after riding the back of Woodside to the South Natchez 80-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Mike Bell rushed into the end zone and converted on the two-point conversion with a pass to Leon Dixon to make the game 14-8. But South Natchez came right back and scored off of a Pressgrove touchdown run and went up 22-8 at the half.
Vidalia would outscore South Natchez in the third and fourth quarter. South Natchez scored with 3:25 left in the third quarter, extending their lead to 29-8. The Vikings answered with an 89-yard scoring drive that made the game 29-16 going into the fourth quarter after Bell connected with Woodside on a 35-yard pass play. Bell ran in the conversion.
After a fumble recovery in the end zone in the fourth quarter, South Natchez extended its lead to 36-16.
The Vikings didn't go down without a fight, though. Woodside had an 89-yard touchdown run with 1:28 left in the game and the final score would be 36-24.
"You could have played in the state championship game, and you wouldn't have had as much tension because it was Vidalia vs. Natchez and Louisiana vs. Mississippi," Faircloth said.
Next week: Game 1.
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