This is a bonus game of the top 40 games featuring Concordia Parish teams. Game No. 1 will run next week.
As a 1975 graduate at North Natchez High School, Jerry Baldwin was well aware of the tradition and numerous college standouts North Natchez High produced when he took his undefeated North Natchez team into Martin Stadium, better known as “The Pit.”
Baldwin, who was actually “Athlete of the Year” at North Natchez in 1974-5, also knew the late Tom Williams was considered one of the top defensive coaches in the state of Mississippi.
And even though it was not a typical year for the Rams, who were sporting a 3-5 record, the Rams were still a more-than-formidable opponent on the night of October 29, 1982.
“I had communicated with Tom about playing,” Baldwin said. “Even though their record wasn’t great, they were still an exciting football team and a bigger team. We expected a bloodbath.”
Ferriday won the opening toss and elected to play defense. Forty-eight playing minutes later, the two teams would have the number 14 burning on their side of the scoreboard.
Unfortunately, North Natchez would hold Ferriday without a point on the Trojans’ first possession of overtime, while the Rams kicked a game-winning field goal to come away with a hard-earned 17-14 win.
“I wish we could have come back with a win,” Baldwin said. “They were much bigger than us and thought they were going to walk all over us. We took to the underdog role. But I didn’t and still don’t believe in moral victories.”
“That was a big game for us because Coach Baldwin was from Natchez,” said Ferriday lineman Walter Johnson. “They really wanted to ‘whup’ us. It was a different atmosphere. It was a good game. It was rough. They liked to twist your ankle during tackles, but there was nothing you could do at the bottom of a pile.”
Ferriday scored first, going 78 yards on their first series. With the ball at their own 45, Trojan quarterback Keith Henderson passed the ball in the flat to Nathaniel Williams. Williams fumbled the ball, and Walter Johnson picked it up and ran it close to 50 yards for the score. Fumbles could be advanced in Mississippi, but not in Louisiana at that time.
“I was just thinking about scoring,” Johnson said. “I always told Coach Baldwin to give me the football. He told me, ‘You’re not a tailback, you’re a lineman. I already have a tailback.’”
North Natchez moved the ball to the Ferriday 9-yard line before Johnson sacked George Reed back to his 15.
Kelvin Davis then intercepted a Reed pass and brought it back to the Trojan 22.
The Trojans went right down the field, with Williams going in from two yards out and Henderson passing to Francis Duncan on the conversion to give Ferriday at 14-0 advantage at halftime.
North Natchez’s Archie Tucker missed a 33-yard field goal just before halftime.
Ferriday’s Emmanuel Smith intercepted a Ram pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown, but the score was called back because of a clip and the Trojans were unable to score.
Ferriday led 14-0 in the fourth quarter when North Natchez’s Jerry Davis intercepted a Henderson pass and returned it to the Ferriday 32-yard line.
Ram quarterback Garrick Williams, son of North Natchez coach Tom Williams, passed to Greg Terrell to the Trojan 24.
Three penalties moved the ball to the Ferriday 1-yard line and Tyrone Shaw ran it in from there with Tucker adding the PAT to bring the Rams to within 14-7.
After an exchange of possessions, Ferriday took over on its 16-yard line.
Runs by Williams and Keith Whitley moved the ball to the Trojan 21, but an errant pitch on third down was recovered by North Natchez at the Trojan 5-yard line.
After three tries, Daryl Smith scored from five yards out and Tucker tied the game.
Smith is the son of former North Natchez football and basketball coach George Smith. He went on to play college football at Jackson State.
“We had a couple of turnovers in the fourth quarter that cost us the game,” Baldwin said.
North was unable to cross the goal line on its first three possessions of overtime and Tucker connected on a 23-yarder.
On Ferriday’s possession, Williams was stopped for no game and then a pass into the end zone was dropped.
Another incomplete pass led to fourth down, while Henderson was stopped short on an option run to preserve the win for North Natchez.
“If I had to do it over I would have just given the ball to Nate,” Baldwin said. “Walter was our cow bell on defense and Nate was our cowbell on offense. He was our thoroughbred. It’s like the girl you bring to the prom.”
The loss was the first regular season loss for Ferriday since the Tioga game on October 24, 1980,
Ferriday ended up with 176 rushing yards and 70 through the air.
Williams had 112 yards to bring his season total to 1,574..
North was held to 69 yards on the ground and 51 through the air.
North Natchez had two penalties for 10 yards, while Ferriday was penalized eight times for 67 yards.
“We knew we would be dealing with a hostile environment and some home cooking,” Baldwin said. “One of the greatest arts in the world is never failing — but getting up when you do is even greater.”
Ferriday finished 10-2, falling to Winnfield 32-14 in the quarterfinals. Johnson re-injured his ankle in the first half and was forced to leave the game.
“You can’t coach against Injuries,” Baldwin said. “That definitely hampered us. It was one of the better teams I had at Ferriday.”
Baldwin is now headmaster at New Living Word School in Ruston, a school he founded.
Baldwin said he would have liked to have played North Natchez at Melz Field in Ferriday.
“We had a tough time getting anybody to come to our place,” he said. “Even district teams.”