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|Minaldi led upset|
St. Louis of Lake Charles junior running back Thad Minaldi heard the talk. He knew every yard he would rush for against Vidalia would be earned on the night of November 30, 1973 in their Class AA quarterfinal contest.
"We saw where Vidalia had not been scored on in a while and we were very concerned," said Minaldi, now a lawyer in Lake Charles. At that point we were playing way above our heads. We had the long bus trip ride ahead to worry about this game."
Minaldi's St. Louis team was the visiting team at Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium, taking on a Vidalia team that was 8-1-2. But more impressive, this Viking team has a current scoreless streak of 37 straight without giving up a point, coming off a 14-0 win over Homer in a second round playoff game in Homer after receiving a first-round bye. It was the 10th shutout of the year for the Viking defense.
"We hardly talked about the shutout streak," Cupit said. "We just wanted to do our jobs and keep developing during the year. All we were concentrating on was winning games. Our fans started getting into it, but we just took it play by play."
The Vikings boasted of one of the top defenses in the state as the '72 team broke every defense school record, allowing only 14 points during the regular season. Nine of its 10 wins were shutouts, with only 3A Ponchatula defeating the Vikings by a 14-0 score.
The 14 points allowed broke the previous record of 21 allowed in 1962.
The Viking defense allowed only 48.8 yards rushing during the regular season and 26.1 through the air.
Vidalia held Homer to 20 yards rushing and 54 through the air.
The shutout win gave Vidalia 37 straight scoreless quarters, which tied the 1969 Springhill team.
St. Louis actually tied for second place in District 2-AA and finished with a 5-5 regular season record. The Saints won a coin toss with the two other teams to advance to the playoffs.
St. Louis defeated Kinder 26-16 in a first-round playoff contest before upsetting Menard 14-13 in the second round.
St. Louis arrived in Vidalia a day early on Thursday and worked out at Dee Faircloth VIking Stadium that evening.
"Our center and offensive guards weighed 150 pounds and our two tackles and tight end were about 170," Minaldi said. "I was the biggest guy on our team at 207 pounds. But like a lot of double-A teams, we were hard-nosed, hard-hitting and very disciplined."
Mindaldi said when St. Louis stepped off the bus Thursday evening there were several Vidalia players hanging around.
"They saw how small we were and started laughing," Minaldi said. "That was a topic of conversation that evening. I might have chuckled myself if I would have been in their shoes. But it was great motivation for us."
There were other issues for Viking head coach Dee Faircloth to deal with, as well.
The Vidalia cheerleaders had a pep rally scheduled for Thursday before the game. "I asked the boys not to go because it was cold and wet and I didn't want them catching pneumonia before the game," Faircloth said. "The cheerleaders got mad and went over to the Ramada Inn and talked to the St. Louis players. Well, our players got mad the next day and would not cheer during the pep rally, which made the cheerleaders mad. I was thinking, 'Great, we got this far and now we have totally lost our focus.' I think we had a good shot at winning State. We had a better ballclub than St, Louis and they ended up playing in the finals."
"We had some girls and boys come out and visit in the parking lot,"Minaldi said. "Some of my teammates went down and talked to them and some of the guys were talking to them from the balcony."
Vidalia had several players sign college scholarships after that season, including George Cupit with LSU, Mike Lemen with Southeastern, Marty Probst with Northeast Louisiana and Robbie Savant with Louisiana Tech.
But the streak would not last another quarter against St.Louis as Minaldi scored on a 46-yard run on the third play from scrimmage.
"We were looking at each other in the huddle during the extra point and we were all very happy, but you could tell by the look on our faces we were very surprised," Mindaldi said. "We were not forgetting who we were playing. Our coaches had a great blocking scheme set up."
Vidalia coach Dee Faircloth thought it may have been too good.
"On that play they had three different holds, but no flag was thrown," Faircloth said. "We looked at the film and it looked like an Arthur Murray Dance Recital. I told the referee he had to see it because he had to jump out of the way of one of them. That run just busted our guys mentally. Our guys were geared up for nobody to score on us. When they did it was a big slap in the face. It took us a while to recover."
Minaldi added a 25-yard run in the third quarter to put the Saints up 13-0.
"When we were up by two touchdowns we were still thinking there is no way this game is over," Minaldi said. "We were feeling good, but we were not overconfident. Then Vidalia started moving the ball and any delusions we had about what was happening were over with."
Larry Cage returned a St. Louis fumble 21 yards for a score, but a fumble on the PAT attempt kept the score at 13-6.
With 10:42 remaining, Steve Richardson picked off a pass and ran 49 yards for the score. But West Foster was stopped inches from the goal line on an option on the two-point conversion attempt.
Vidalia moved the ball on its next possession in the final period with Cupit eating up the yardage.
The Vikings moved to the Saint 30-yard line where they faced third-and-two.
But an illegal procedure penalty backed the Vikings up five yards.
"Mike Lemen was pointing at his ears and then pointed at the band," Faircloth said. "We moved the bandstand after that game."
After coming up short, Joey Hutton's 35-yard field goal attempt was just short and St. Louis ran out the clock.
"We were all so dog-tired and emotionally drained that we could not get real excited after the missed field goal," Minaldi said."It was a hard-hitting game. We literally had to hold them off."
"I had a 101-degree fever that week and wasn't able to practice," Cupit said. "That is still one of the worst nights of my life. The only thing I can compare it to was at LSU when we lost to Georgia my senior year after leading them 17-0 at halftime. We were undefeated and ranked No. 11 and they beat us 24-17."
St. Louis lost to Notre Dame 28-0 in the state championship game after defeating Jackson in the semifinals.
"That was the second time we played Notre Dame that year," Minaldi said. "The first time we made a game of it. Vidalia would have had a better chance. That would have been a lot of big bodies hitting each other. It would have been very competitive. We played Notre Dame twice, so I was thinking nobody could beat them. But Vidalia would have given them a better game."
Minaldi would go on to play running back at LSU. One of his teammates was Cupit.
"We talked about that game some," Cupit said. "Thad said that was the hardest he had been hit all year."
Cupit was red-shirted his freshman year, so he and Minaldi played all four years together and became very close friends.
"George was a hard-nosed player who worked hard and never gave up," Minaldi said. "George was a fiercely loyal friend and a great guy during those days. I should say also Terry Robiskie was, as well. I was fortunate enough to start at fullback as a freshman, so I was in same backfield with Terry. He helped me a great deal, as I tried to contend with starting as a freshman during a very difficult year for our team."
LSU coach Charles McClendon worked Minaldi at linebacker his junior year and he played fullback, splitback and linebacker as a junior before playing his entire senior year at linebacker. He was a team captain his senior year of 1978 at LSU, along with running back Charles Alexander.
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