This is game No. 19 out of the top 40 games played by Concordia Parish teams.
Jarrell Hayes played football at Ferriday High from 2004-07 and has been an assistant coach since 2011.
But he never was able to experience winning a home game to advance to the Superdome and a state championship game until December 2019,
After two years in a row of coming up one game short of playing for a state title, the Ferriday Trojans punched their ticket for the Superdome with a 42-14 win over Amite High School, the team which beat the Trojans 44-20 in the semifinals a year earlier.
“That was really special for everybody to come together for that home game in that type of atmosphere and pull it off,” Hayes said. “It was very special. But you really can’t enjoy that while the game is going on because you are still coaching. But when that scoreboard hit :00 I was able to take in that moment.”
“Not making it to the state championship game two years in a row and then doing it on our home field was really special,” said Ferriday coach Stanley Smith. “And to do it at home was extra special.”
The Trojans won their first-ever semifinal playoff game at home, punching their ticket for the Superdome and a Class 2A state championship berth with a 42-14 win over Amite Friday night.
Ferriday defeated Many the following week in the Superdome.
“People knew that Ferriday always had talent, but this opened a lot of people’s eyes about Ferriday being among the elite,” Smith said. “All the pieces finally fell into place. I think my second year here (2018) we kind of overachieved . We didn’t have a lot of seniors, but we still made it to the semifinals. The guys were beginning to understand the process and how it worked.”
The 1984 Ferriday team that advanced to the championship game defeated Bunkie at Bunkie in the semifinals before falling to John Curtis.
The estimated crowd Friday was 3,000. The visitors side was not completely full as it was in 1981 for the Ferriday-John Curtis game that drew 5,000.
“That was quite an environment,” Amite head coach Zephaniah Powell said of the semifinal contest. “Ferriday was the better team. Congratulations to them and hopefully they take care of business Friday.”
It was the third straight semifinal game for Ferriday, falling to Amite in Amite 44-20 last year.
“I am just a ball of emotion,” Smith said after the game.
Ferriday improved to 13-1 with the win, its only loss a season-opening 35-22 setback to Alexandria Senior High.
Many lost its first three games to Union, Natchitoches Central and North DeSoto before winning seven straight to finish the regular season at 7-3.
The Tigers defeated Vidalia 59-0 in their first round playoff game before eliminating East Feliciana, Pine and Kentwood.
Friday night, Amite scored on its first drive as Corey McKnight, who scored three touchdowns against Ferriday last year, went in from four yards out with 9:13 remaining.
Liam Adamson added the point-after kick.
McKnight rushed for 149 yards on 20 carries Friday.
“He’s a great player,” said Ferriday High defensive end Khylin Lewis.
Besides McKnight’s yardage, the Warriors only totaled 81 more.
“We came out playing more physical and aggressive in the second quarter,” Lewis said. “We started playing the right technique. We just wanted to keep pressure on them.”
Ferriday drove to the Amite 26-yard line, but Warrior linebacker Java Gilmore stripped Ferriday quarterback Kobe Dillon of the ball and sprinted down the sideline to put Amite up 14-0.
“We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot in the first quarter,” Smith said.
“I knew I had to come back harder,” Dillon said of the turnover. “I never lost faith. I had to forget about it.”
Dillon finished with 223 rushing yards on 18 carries and passed for 73 yards.
“I knew I had to get locked in,” Dillon said.
Ferriday drove down the field on the ensuing possession. Facing fourth-and-four at the Amite 10-yard line, Dillon made a perfectly-timed pitch to Elijah White who ran to the 5-yard line for a first down.
“We have been practicing that play waiting on the perfect time to use it.” Smith said. “That was the perfect time.”
Tevyn Byrd and Byron Milligan both had one-yard runs before Dillon took it in from three yards out. Dillon ran in the conversion for a 14-8 score with 1:38 remaining in the first half.
Ferriday’s defense forced a punt, which landed on the Trojan 1-yard line.
After a 7-yard run, Dillon broke loose following a 5-yard penalty on the Trojans for 26 yards to the Ferriday 30-yard line.
Ferriday moved down the Amite 13-yard line, but turned the ball over on a fumble.
The Trojan defense held and Amite punted to its own 48.
Dillon hit Elijah White for 15 yards to the 30 where he then found Sebastion Turner for a 30-yard TD. The conversion failed, leaving the score at 14-14 with 3:13 remaining in the first half.
Facing fourth-and-seven at the Ferriday 18, Amite quarterback John Walker was hit hard by Ferriday’s Dontavious Henderson at the Trojan 21 to stop the drive.
“I knew if we could contain the run they would have to go to the spread,” Smith said. “And then we were either going to go to zone or bring pressure. We brought the prressure.”
An incomplete pass was followed by a 5-yard pass to Turner.
Dillon then ran 17 yards to the Trojan 42-yard line.
Dillon connected with Justin Burns to the Amite 46-yard line.
An incomplete pass stopped the clock with 43 seconds remaining.
A short pass to Turner gained a yard before Dillon tucked the ball and ran to the 23-yard line with 33 seconds remaining.
Dillon ran for two and threw an incomplete pass.
Dillon then passed to Blake Tarver for five yards to the 15.
With 11 seconds remaining, Dillon split through the Amite line and raced almost untouched for a secure with five seconds remaining.
Byron Milligan ran in the conversion for a 22-14 halftime lead.
“I told the guys at halftime it was now or never,” Smith said. “This is what you play the game for, to host a semifinal game. We could not have played much worse in the first half. But once they got locked in, it was a done deal.”
Milligan returned the second half kickoff from his 15 to the Amite 47-yard line.
Dillon had runs of 15, 17, 7 and five yards to put the ball at the Amite 6-yard line.
Dillon then hit Tarver standing at the side of the right end zone fort he score. The conversion failed, leaving Ferriday with a 28-14 lead with 8:29 remaining.
Kobe Johnson recovered an Amite fumble at the Warrior 37.
“You can’t turn it over to a team like Ferriday,” Powell said. “They are just too explosive.”
Six plays later, Milligan scored from 22 yards out. Byrd ran in the conversion for a 36-14 lead.
“I knew it was time to lay it on the line,” Miligan said. “I wanted the ball in my hands.”
The final Ferriday score came with 2:41 remaining on a 12-yard run by Dillon.
“We finally got the experience that feeling that Amite and St. Helena had against us the last couple of years,” Hayes said. “Those last two games last year made all the hard work through the years worth it.”