Future Star

Keith Woodside had a big game against South Natchez in 1982,

This is game No. 18 of the top 40 games featuring Concordia Parish team. 

When legendary South Natchez High School coach Ed Reed called Vidalia coach Dee Faircloth about playing a football game in 1982, Faircloth could hardly believe it.

"I told him, 'Coach Reed, that's a good one considering you just won the state championship in MIssissippi. Coach, are you at the Red Dog Saloon?' But he was very persuasive. He told me it would be great for both communities and we could both make some money. Finally I told him we could play as long as the first game would be over here. He reassured me they would not kill us."

But before the 1982 season started, Reed accepted the head coaching position at Tuscaloosa Central and former Colonel All-State player Joey Porter took over before Vidalia and South Natchez met for the first time.

"People who were sitting at the top of the stands told me later that they could see the steady flow of cars still coming from Natchez," Faircloth said."That was the most people I have ever seen at a Vidalia game."

An estimated crowd of 6,500 walked through the gate at Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium on the night of September 24, 1982.

South Natchez was riding high after winning the 1981 5A State Championship - the first ever championship in the state using a playoff system.

"They were unbeaten (2-0) and ranked No. 1 in Mississippi, and we were unbeaten and ranked pretty high in Louisiana," Faircloth said.

Porter, who was adept at running the Notre Dame Box in the early 1970s and also still holds the national high school baseball record for most consecutive innings of shutout ball (80) and most consecutive games without giving up a run (11) in 1973, said the game was a natural.

"Money was a big part of it,” Porter said. “We had the bigger school, but Vidalia always played us hard, never backed down, and was well-coached by Coach Faircloth, who did a really good job. We had a really good group of kids, but Vidalia got after us."

Faircloth said he hated preparing for the Box. 

"The problem was, you didn't see it every week," Faircloth said. "We had three teams - Sicily Island, McCall and South Natchez, who used it. I hated the box so much I threw all my boxes out of the house. I called (former North Natchez) Coach Tom WIlliams and asked him how they prepared for it and he told me, 'Coach, we start working on defending that the first practice, even though we wouldn't see it until the end of the season.'"

Former Vidalia quarterback and then assistant coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said the first cross-river rivalry was one of the most memorable game he's seen at Vidalia.

"That's one I'll always remember, for sure," said Hoffpauir, who will be inducted into the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January. "It was that David against Goliath kind of deal. We didn't know what to expect."

Vidalia lineman Joel Boles said the Vikings were "stoked" to be playing against South Natchez.

"It was Miss-Lou bragging rights," Boles said. "There was always a rivalry between the two schools, and we had never played one another. We always thought they were pretty boys and thought they came over to 'our' side and stole our girlfriends. Of course, Coach Faircloth egged this on in practice telling us how they would 'pillage our homes, burn our crops, and take Sally Sue from us if we did not play well.' It was a hard hitting game.”

During the week, Vidalia businessman Fred Falkenheiner came to Faircloth with a plan to motivate the Vikings and get ready to play Friday.

"Fred came to me and said, 'We're going to get these boys fired up. I'm going to get an airplane and drop these leaflets that say we're going to whip y'all and make it look like they were from Natchez,'" Faircloth said. "We were out at practice and here comes the plane. They started dropping the leaflets and the wind was blowing so hard it blew all the leaflets over to the levee. I knew what it was, so I had to say, 'Boys, go on out that gate and see what those things are.' I told him later, 'Dang Fred, you and your plans.'"

"It didn't go as planned, let's just put it like that," Hoffpauir said. "We had to get them to chase the leaflets. The excitement factor was unreal that whole week leading up to that game. We played 'em hard and played 'em tough.  We knew our kids wouldn't be intimidated. We gave them the best shot we had, but we came up short. Our little rascals battled their hearts out."

The game garnered the attention of people all around the area and when it came down to game time, the stadium was filled with fans from Natchez and Vidalia.

"I never will forget it. It was the only game in town," Faircloth said. "Everybody else either had an open date or had played on Thursday. It was the biggest crowd that's ever been in (Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium). Cars were parked all the way down to the Mobil (now Spring) station."

"It reminded me of when we played the state championship game in 1966 and I happened to be on that team," Hoffpauir said. "We had that many people there or more for the game against South Natchez, and a lot of those people were there to see (Vidalia running back Keith) Woodside. He was one of those once in a lifetime guys, and he didn't disappoint that night. People knew that he was for real, and everyone knew who he was after that game."

As the game started getting closer, Faircloth and Hoffpauir started to get an idea of what was about to happen.

 "At about four o'clock that evening, me and Coach were sitting in the office and saw cars start to fill up the parking lot," Hoffpauir said. "More and more cars came in and by five o'clock, it had already filled up. Me and Coach looked at each other and went 'Gosh, what have we got ourselves into.'"

Faircloth said his players had never seen a crowd that big before and said the expressions on their faces during warm-ups said it all.

"You should have seen how big their eyes got," Faircloth said. "It was thousands there. It was a hellacious crowd. I remember one of the doctors in Natchez telling me, 'That was the best football game I've ever seen.'"

Faircloth said that the game got so much publicity around the area that it helped the would-be NFL talent Woodside get a scholarship to Texas A&M.

"Woodside put on a clinic," Faircloth said. "That game probably got Woodside a scholarship  because he did so well."

Woodside posted X-box-like stats with 204 yards rushing on 27 carries and 114 yards receiving with two touchdowns.

South Natchez struck first blood after quarterback Bill Pressgrove connected with future Southern Miss running back Randolph Brown on a 37-yard touchdown reception. 

The Colonels ate up seven minutes on their opening scoring drive. It took a pair of 15-yard penalties against the Vikings -- including a 15-yard roughing the kicker on fourth down that gave South Natchez possession at their own 47-yard line -- to keep the drive alive.

Pressgrove followed that drive up with a 45-yard run to give the Colonels a 14-0 lead with 2:59 left in the first quarter.

The Vikings came charging back, riding the back of  Woodside to the South Natchez 8-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Mike Bell rushed into the end zone and converted on the two-point conversion with a pass to Leon Dixon to make the game 14-8. But South Natchez came right back and scored off of a Pressgrove touchdown run and went up 22-8 at the half.

Vidalia would outscore South Natchez in the third and fourth quarter. South Natchez scored with 3:25 left in the third quarter, extending their lead to 29-8. The Vikings answered with an 89-yard scoring drive that made the game 29-16 going into the fourth quarter after Bell connected with Woodside on a 35-yard pass play. Bell ran in the conversion.

After a fumble recovery in the end zone in the fourth quarter, South Natchez extended its lead to 36-16. 

The Vikings didn't go down without a fight, though. Woodside had an 89-yard touchdown run with 1:28 left in the game and the final score would be 36-24.

Joe Logan led South Natchez with 123 yards on 14 carries.

"You could have played in the state championship game, and you wouldn't have had as much tension because it was Vidalia vs. Natchez and Louisiana vs. Mississippi," Faircloth said.

Porter went on to coach at Columbia High (Ms.), taking the single wing offense and leading Columbia to the 1998 Class 4A state championship where the Wildcats lost to Clarksdale.

Porter, now a road warehouse furniture salesman, retired from Columbia High 10 years ago.

Vidalia and South Natchez played three more times, with Vidalia getting its only win in 1984 as the Vikings defeated the Colonels 19-6 as Raleston Brown threw two touchdown passes to Tony Hawkins Sr.

"We usually played them pretty tough, which surprised the heck out of me," Faircloth said.

Vidalia finished the 1982 season at 8-3, defeating Franklin County 16-0 in the River City Bowl game played at Cathedral’s D’Evereaux Stadium.

Woodside was named MVP after rushing for 159 yards, and a touchdown whille Bell was named Offensive MVP. Bell completed a 26-yard TD pass to Windell Albert.



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