This is game No. 13 of the top 40 games featuring Concordia Parish team. Games 15 and 16 are on page 2B.
It was a scene unlike very few at Melz Field on the night of December 1, 2017.
After a pass interference call led to an un-timed play that gave St. Helena the winning score over Ferriday in a Class 2A semifinal contest, officials ran for the exits as half of the Trojan fans were venting while others were too shocked to leave the stands.
Meanwhile, St. Helena fans were tearing down the fence on the visitor’s side to storm the field and congratulate their team.
Fernando Muse caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ricky Travis lifting sixth-seeded St. Helena to a 12-6 victory over No. 2 Ferriday in Ferriday.
“That was one of the most devastating losses I’ve ever experienced as a player or coach,” Smith said. “I still have nightmares about it. It was an eventful game to say the least. But it really set up everything that was going to come for us. We had a really talented team, but they didn’t understand the process yet. They were used to winning by talent alone.”
The late dramatics that put the Hawks (12-2) in the LHSAA Prep Classic for the first time since 2004 came about despite a serious injury to one of the team’s top players.
St. Helena’s Troy Hurst broke a bone in his neck and was air-lifted to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center where he had surgery the next day and eventually made a full recovery.
Before the injury, Hurst broke a long run that set up a 2-yard TD run by Jeremy Griffin.
Hurst rushed for 94 yards and made multiple defensive plays in the Hawks’ 35-32 quarterfinal win over rival Amite.
Hurst’s cousin, Troy Hurst, is a cornerback at Memphis.
“That was absolutely tough for Troy when Aaron went down, as it was for the whole team,” St. Helena coach Brandon Brown said. “But they were able to make plays and dedicated the rest of the game to Aaron.”
There was also a stoppage of play in the fourth quarter after two long plays by Da’minya Milligan and Kobe Dillon had the ball on the St. Helena 42.
A Ferrriday cheerleader then suffered a seizure, bringing the ambulance on the field. Her brother, understandably upset, came down to the field and had to be restrained by Ferriday head coach Stanley Smith.
Dillon rushed to the 31-yard line, but a mishandled snap was recovered by St. Helena at the Hawk 45 with four minutes remaining, leading to the winning touchdown.
“We had them reeling,” Smith said. “We were ready to put it away.”
On a night of craziness, the men in stripes also played a role in the strange happenings.
Things went sour quickly in the first quarter on St. Helena’s first touchdown.
Jeremy Griffin got the call on fourth down and appeared stopped short, with the official near the play waving his arms to stop the clock.
But an official on the other side signaled touchdown, much to the displeasure of Smith, and those fans along the fence who were just getting started.
Ferriday answered by moving the ball to the St. Helena 45, but was stopped on three plays. Lewis Matthews went back to punt. After a high snap, Matthews took off and carried the ball for a first down to the Hawk 30.
But the St. Helena defense stiffened and the Hawks went into the dressing room with a 6-0 lead.
At halftime, the officials have to walk out the gate through those fans to the former Ferriday dressing room where they spend halftime.
As they were walking out, one fan kept shouting, “Don’t come back out here with that “BS.”
When the officials returned, one asked my if there was a policeman nearby.
In the second half, Matthews made a tackle on fourth down with St. Helena on the Ferriday 42 to stop a drive.
St. Helena got the ball back, but was forced to punt from its 19.
A high snap caused the Hawk punter to be tackled by Larry Scott at the St. Helena 2-yard line.
Jerrius Scott raced around left end from one yard out on second down to tie the game at 6-6 with 7:14 remaining. The conversion failed.
On the ensuing kickoff, St. Helena’s returner caught the ball on the left side and ran to the right side where he was upended.
Ferriday’s Tevyn Byrd picked up the ball and raced to the end zone, with at least two officials ruling touchdown.
No official ruled the ball down at the time of the tackle.
The officials conferred and ruled that the returner was down.
St. Helena faced fourth and six at the Ferriday 35 late in the third quarter.
Byrd tackled Griffin short of the first down, giving the Trojans the ball at their 32.
Ferriday fumbled the ball on a double reverse, giving the ball back to St. Helena on the Ferriday 47.
“That play was wide open,” Smith said. “The pitch hit our player in the facemask. We had a convoy set up on the left side of the field.”
St. Helena ran away from Dantrieze Scott, and Brown credited his four-year starting quarterback.
“They did a good job of moving him (Scott) around,” Brown said. “Ricky came over to me and told me we had to make adjustments because that kid was pretty tough. So he would check out of some plays depending on where the Scott kid was.”
Travis walked on at Grambling, but when former Karr quarterback transferred to Grambling from Arkansas State, prompting Travis to leave the team.
Scott started out at LSU with former teammate Dare Rosenthal, but transferred to Grambling and is now set to play football at Hinds Community College this fall.
The No. 6 Hawks advanced to the Class 2A state championship game, falling to Welsh 38-26.
“It was kind of surreal,” Smith said of the loss. “All I could do is drop my headphones and walk off. I’m still trying to process everything that happened. We had so many chances to take control of that game. We were just snakebite.”
St. Helena converted two fourth down plays on the winning drive, including a bullet pass by Grambling commit Ricky Travis to Fernando Muse to the 18.
“We had that play covered and were in position for a pick six, but it didn’t happen,” Smith said. “We made some mistakes on defense, but our defense was sound most of the night.”
The Hawks converted another fourth down and moved the ball to the 10-yard line with seconds remaining.
A pass to the end zone was incomplete, but a late flag for pass interference gave the Hawks another play with no time on the clock.
With Dantrieze Scott draped around his waist, Travis moved the ball from his left hand to his right hand, twisted his body and lobbed a pass to Muse just over the goal line for the winning score.
Despite the loss, Smith said that season was big in Ferriday’s winning the state championship last December.
Ferriday defeated St. Helena 26-21 in Greensburg in the 2A quarterfinals in 2018.
“That 2017 team set the bar and everything fell into place,” Smith said.