This is game No. 33 out of the top 40 games played by Concordia Parish teams.
In 1996, when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association adopted the overtime rule for the regular season, Vidalia High head coach Dee Faircloth and Ferriday High head coach Cordell Bailey had no idea how profound that rule would be in their parish rivalry on October 4 at Melz Field in Ferriday.
“I certainly did not think we would see an overtime game that season,” Bailey said. “And it’s not like you can prepare your kids for it. You just hope to get the ball first.”
“I never thought we would have a overtime game that year,” Faircloth said. “And there we were at Melz Field.”
On October 4, 1996, Concordia Parish football fans found out how exciting this new tiebreaker was as Vidalia and Ferriday were tied 12-12 at the end of four quarters at Melz Field.
Vidalia entered the game with a 3-1 record, coming off a 36-7 win over Tioga.
Ferriday entered the game with a 4-0 record, coming off a 13-6 win over Wilkinson County in rainy conditions that saw Sterry Leonard return a punt 12 yards for a touchdown.
“There was a lot of talking before the game,” said former Viking quarterback Gregg Johnson. “It was a big game. There were so many people there, it was unreal.”
And nobody left their seat until the very end, when VIdalia scored on its first possession after stopping Ferriday on four downs from the Viking 10-yard line to earn the win.
“If it had been held in the Roman Coliseum, the Romans would have spared us both,” Faircloth said. “It was that good a ball game. It was a classic. There are people who have followed football around here for 40 years who said it was the best football game they’ve seen.”
“It was as good a football game as has been played around here in a while,” said Ferriday head football coach Cordell Bailey. “A defeat is much easier to take when you lose to a quality team like Vidalia.”
Bailey’s son, Adrian, was a sophomore quarterback for the Trojans.
“That was a hard fought battle from both teams from the coin toss to the final whistle,” Adrian said. “Games like that make you grow up fast. Both teams left every thing they had on the field that night. It was my very first overtime game. When they scored it was hard leaving the field. A play here or a play there and we could have won that night. But that’s the game of football. It wasn’t meant to be. They were the better team that night.”
Vidalia scored first as Eric Whitley blocked a Ferriday punt and Glen Donald fell on it in the end zone to give the Vikings a 6-0 lead.
With just over a minute remaining in the first half, Bailey connected with Kerry Collier on a 68-yard TD pass play to tie the game at 6-6.
Early in the fourth quarter, Robert James Lee broke loose on a 64-yard dive play to give Ferriday a 12-6 advantage.
Vidalia fumbled the ball away on their next possession, but Vidalia’s defense held, giving the Vikings one more chance.
Johnson led Vidalia down the field on the final Viking drive of regulation, hitting Brandon Cade on a 34-yard pass play down the sideline.
“When we hit that pass, everything changed,” Johnson said. “I knew we were going to tie it up then and end up winning it.”
With 39 seconds remaining on the clock, Johnson passed to Derrick Collins for nine yards to tied the game at 12-12.
But the point-after kick was wide, forcing the game into overtime.
“When we missed that kick, you could have heard the Ferriday fans down in New Orleans,” Faircloth said.
In overtime, Ferriday got the ball first and Lee was stopped on first down, and the next three plays were incomplete passes.
“You try and come up with something that worked in the first quarter but they haven’t seen the rest of the game,” Bailey said. “Justin Burns was gone, so we didn’t have a kicker. Otherwise we would have gone for the sure thing and put the pressure on them.”
“You want to be on defense first because you know what you have to do to at least match it,” Faircloth said.
Faircloth then went to his “Refrigerator” offense, putting 5-11, 225-pound senior llneman Eric Whitley in the backfield.
Senior Koby Butler followed Whitley on two straight carries, the final covering four yards into the end zone for the win.
“That was definitely my most memorable game as a quarterback,” Johnson said. “Anytime you are down with a few minutes left on the clock and come back and win, it’s something you never forget.”
“That was a hard-hitting game on both sides,” Faircloth said. It’s tremendous anytime you go into Ferriday and win. But we seemed to always play better in Ferriday. I asked one of my kids about that once and he told me it was the atmosphere.”
Bailey won 91 games at Ferriday High from 1987 to 1998 and took the Trojans to two Class AAA state semifinal contests.
“It was never fun losing in overtime, but especially against Vidalia,” Bailey said.