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Story Archives: Vikings host South Natchez
|Vikings host South Natchez|
This is the 18th in a 30-part series on the top football games played in Concordia Parish.
When legendary South Natchez High School coach Ed Reed called Vidalia coach Dee Faircloth about playing a football game in 1982, Faircloth could hardly believe it.
"I told him, 'Coach Reed, that's a good one considering you just won the state championship in MIssissippi. Coach, are you at the Red Dog Saloon?' But he was very persuasive. He told me it would be great for both communities and we could both make some money. Finally I told him we could play as long as the first game would be over here. He reassured me they would not kill us."
Reed accepted the head coaching position at Tuscaloosa Central and former Colonel All-State player Joey Porter took over.
"People who were sitting at the top of the stands told me later that they could see the steady flow of cars still coming from Natchez," Faircloth said."That was the most people I have ever seen at a Vidalia game."
An estimated crowd of 6,500 walked through the gate at Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium on the night of September 24, 1982.
South Natchez was riding high after winning the 1981 5A State Championship - the first ever championship in the state using a playoff system.
"They were unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Mississippi, and we were unbeaten and ranked pretty high in Louisiana," Faircloth said.
Porter, who was adept at running the Notre Dame Box in the early 1970s and also still holds the national high school baseball record for most consecutive innings of shutout ball (80) and most consecutive games without giving up a run (11) in 1973, said the game was a natural.
"It was one of those games that was just a natural," Porter said. "We should have been playing. Money was a big part of it. We had the bigger school, but Vidalia always played us hard, never backed down, and was well-coached by Coach Faircloth, who did a really good job. We had a really good group of kids, but Vidalia got after us."
Faircloth said he hated preparing for the Box.
"The problem was, you didn't see it every week," Faircloth said. "We had three teams - Sicily Island, McCall and South Natchez, who used it. I hated the box so much I threw all my boxes out of the house. I called (former North Natchez) Coach Tom WIlliams and asked him how they prepared for it and he told me, 'Coach, we start working on defending that the first practice, even though we wouldn't see it until the end of the season.'"
Former Vidalia quarterback and then assistant coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said the first cross-river rivalry was one of the 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."
Vidalia lineman Joel Boles said the Vikings were "stoked" to be playing against South Natchez.
"It was Miss-Lou bragging rights," Boles said. "There was always a rivalry between the two schools, and we had never played one another. We always thought they were pretty boys and thought they came over to 'our' side and stole our girlfriends. Of course, Coach Faircloth egged this on in practice telling us how they would 'pillage our homes, burn our crops, and take Sally Sue from us if we did not play well.' It was a hard hitting game.
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). 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. A lot of those people were there to see Woodside and he didn't disappoint that night. Everyone knew who he was for real 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 a heckuva 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 later after a visit from Jackie Sherrill and Natchez nativc and former Pittsburgh Panther Hugh Green.
"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 up with a 45-yard run to put the Colonels 14-0 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 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 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 for a 36-24 final.
"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.
Porter went on to coach at Columbia High (Ms.), taking the single wing offense and leading Columbia to the 1998 Class 4A state championship where the Wildcats lost to Clarksdale.
Porter, now a road warehouse furniture salesman, retired from Columbia High 10 years ago.
Vidalia and South Natchez played five more times, with Vidalia getting wins in 1984 (19-6 as Raleston Brown threw two touchdown passes to Tony Hawkins Sr.) and in 1986 (8-7 as Joe Ray Hooker scored on 1-yard run and Michael Brown bootlegged in conversion.
"We usually played them pretty tough, which surprised the heck out of me," Faircloth said.
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