With 2:37 remaining in Ferriday’s Class 2A Regional contest at Melz Field and with the Trojans trailing Port Allen 22-20, Trojan head coach Stanley Smith called a time out and the Ferriday coaches walked out to huddle with the team.
The Trojans were 82 yards away from a target they had trouble finding in the first half, but found in the second half.
Ferriday assistant coach C.J. Cothern walked back to the sideline, looked at me and said, “This is going to the house.”
Smith walked to the sideline and said, “Get your camera ready.”
Photographer Wes Faulk was on the other end, hoping for something big.
Ferriday quarterback Jyron Milligan stepped back, fired the ball toward Elijah White who was settled standing up five yards down the field facing Milligan as Daminya Milligan was trailing the play, circling five yards in front of White.
It was the old hook and ladder.
And it was wide open. No Port Allen defender was paying any attention to Daminya Milligan, whose speed would have easily carried him untouched down the sideline.
But Pelican cornerback Jeremiah Dehon snuffed the play, jumping in front of White to make an impressive interception on what would have surely been a game-winning play and set off a wild celebration for the limited Ferriday fans who sat mostly silent throughout most of the game.
It was that kind of night for Ferriday.
As a matter of fact, Fred Patrick and White combined to force a fumble on Port Allen’s next series ad the Trojans got the ball back on their 29-yard line with 1:35 remaining.
Milligan found Khylyn Lewis for a gain to the Trojan 44 with 43 seconds remaining.
But, as was typical most of the night, Ferriday had a holding call that moved it back to the 35.
Milligan ran out of bounds to the 40 after not finding anyone open.
After an incompletion and short pass to Akealis Bloodsaw to the Trojan 40, Ferriday went back to the hook and ladder play on fourth-and-27.
White caught the ball and pitched to Daminya, who bobbled it before it fell to the ground, recovered by Port Allen defenders.
The Pelicans were actually in better position on this play. Even as explosive as Daminya is, it would have been tough to pick up the first down, much less a TD.
It was that kind of night for Ferriday.
Trojans were scattered face down across the field, in tears over a chance to go back-to-back as state champs again.
Gone was the chance to avenge its only loss at Mangham this Thursday.
Gone was its chance to silence Many, who was talking all year about meeting Ferriday again in the playoffs.
But not gone was the heart and spirit of a Ferriday team that never gave up despite so much adversity.
Ferriday coaches can “what if?” themselves to death over this game, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
I look all around and I see is coaches absolutely worn out trying to prepare their teams, while at the same time battling an unrelenting opponent in COVID-19, and how it shook everything up.
Like everyone else, Port Allen had games canceled, which would have made the Pelicans a deservedly higher seed.
Football practice is all about routine and going over the same thing over and over.
But when you miss practice — and more important miss three straight games at the end of the season — consistency goes out the window.
Who knows if the results would have been different if Ferriday did not have to sit out three straight games at the end before playing a Port Allen team that was able to play a first-round game — routing Pine 55-6.
And who knows what craziness even awaits.
But kudos to Ferriday High’s football team for enduring this season and playing hard until the final whistle.
It absolutely hurts. But that’s only because of the heart and soul of this team.
The 2020 Trojans were just as much fun to watch as the 2019 Trojans.
It’s just too bad the excitement level was smothered by COVID-19.
Ferriday was deprived of its fourth straight year of competing in a semifinal game. That’s something you come to expect from West Monroe, John Curtis, Evangel (of the past), and Zachary (of the present).
By no coincidence, those four straight semifinal appearances have come under Stanley Smith, who arrived at his alma mater as head football coach in 2017, led Ferriday to a No. 2 power rankings in his first season.
The Trojans lost to St. Helena 12-6 in the semifinals in Ferriday on an untamed play after a penalty allowed the Hawks another play after the scoreboard went to 0:00.
In 2018, Ferriday defeated St. Helena 28-21 in the quarterfinals before losing to Amite (two years removed from a wide receiver named Devonta Smith) 44-20 in the semifinals in Amite.
Of course last year, Ferriday defeated Amite 42-14 in the semifinals on their way to defeating Many 56-17 in the Class 2A finals in the Superdome.
Here’s hoping for packed houses next season.
Because despite losing top players I know Ferriday High’s football team will give its fans plenty to cheer about once again.