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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 final story of a five-part series.
By Jake Martin
The 2003 undefeated Vidalia Vikings headed to New Orleans in postseason play for a classic game against Redeemer-Seton that Dee Faircloth proclaims as his most memorable game in his 41-year tenure as head coach for the Vikings.
For the second straight year in a row, the Vikings had an undefeated regular season and were poised to make a run at a state championship. Redeemer-Seton was riding high after upsetting Oakdale 42-18, and Vidalia had easily disposed of Livonia 50-7 in the first round.
Vidalia entered the Big Easy on November 21, 2003 and played the game at Jefferson Playground, where Redeemer-Seton rarely saw the opposition finish with more points on the scoreboard.
"I remember we pulled up on the bus and I was going, 'Man, this is a playground.' The stands weren't very big. Redeemer-Seton was a very unique school," Faircloth said.
Vidalia struck first with a first quarter 29-yard touchdown pass from Tony Hawkins to Michael Randall followed by a Jeffery Anderson extra point to put the Vikings up 7-0. Redeemer-Seton took the lead in the second quarter with a 14-yard touchdown pass from UCLA commitment George Lewis to Kenneth Kensey, followed by a two-point conversion.
The Rams increased their lead with a Jamal Johnson 25-yard touchdown run followed by a failed two-point conversion to go up 14-7.
"They were very talented," Faircloth said. "In fact, they played West St. John the closest game they'd had. They were loaded and our kids had our hands full. It was a slobber-knocker. It was a tough ball game."
The Vikings pulled to within five points after Steven Cooper, Chase Clayton and the Viking defense tackled Lewis in the end zone for a safety. The Vikings marched their way back down the field following the safety and capped off the drive with a Hawkins 2-yard touchdown run with 12.7 seconds left in the first half. The try for two failed and the Vikings went into halftime with a 15-14 lead.
The second half saw a lot of defense, as Ken Johnson and Brett Hinson had great defensive games. Johnson hauled in two interceptions and Hinson intercepted a pass in his second straight playoff game.
Redeemer-Seton would take a 22-15 lead when Lewis threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kensey and a pass to Jahan Jones for the two-point conversion.
The drama intensified when Randle scored a touchdown with 7:39 remaining in the game to pull the Vikings within one.
"We had just scored to make it 22-21, and I had a kicker," Faircloth said. "I said 'I just can't rely on that kicker.' You know how I was about kickers. If he kicked it we would tie up the game, and then we would have to go to overtime."
Faircloth went with his instinct and decided to go for the two-point conversion. Hawkins dropped back to pass and threw an incomplete pass, but there was a piece of dirty laundry on the ground.
"I didn't feel like the way they were playing defense at the time that we'd ever get back down there," Faircloth said. "I made the decision that we were going for two points, and we threw a fullback flat to Chris Williams. They knocked him down as he went out on the route, and they called passing interference."
The ball was moved to a yard and a half out from the end zone, and Faircloth had to decide what play to run to capture the lead.
"I'll always remember when I was talking to my quarterback, and I looked out there and Michael Randall was out there going, 'Coach, coach give it to me.'" Faircloth said. "I said, 'Alright, you want it? I'll give it to ya.' And look, we didn't block anybody on that play. We ran a wham and had four guys hit him in the backfield, and that little sucker carried all four of them in the end zone with him. That was a heckuva display of heart."
The Vikings defense would hold onto that 23-22 lead and the Vikings would advance in the playoffs and improve their record to 12-0.
"I remember the coach from Redeemer-Seton (Brantley Williams) said, 'That was a really gutsy call,'" Faircloth said. "I'm going, "Heck, I didn't think I'd get back down there.' You just got to go with your instinct on stuff like that."
Faircloth said time flew by on the bus ride home back to Vidalia.
"It was the most joyful ride we ever had coming back from a ball game," Faircloth said. "We had to come home from New Orleans. It seemed like we got on the bus and two minutes later we were home. It was a short bus ride."
The Vikings would improve to 13-0 the following week with a 46-12 victory over Mamou and advanced to play West St. John in the quarterfinals.
Vidalia would see their season end two weeks later in the semifinals to a West St. John team that was led by future LSU and NFL stars Tyson Jackson and Quinn Johnson and Louisiana Tech all-star running back Patrick Johnson.
West St. John defeated Sterlington, 41-21 in the state championship game.
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