Second-Best

The 1966 Vidalia Vikings

This is game No. 5 of the top 40 games featuring Concordia Parish team.  

There were a number of Vidalia Vikings pulling for the Ferriday Trojans last December when Ferriday High defeated Many for the Class 2A state championship.

In 1966, Vidalia High faced Buras for the Class A title on its home field.

“We were 150 percent behind Vidalia,” said former Ferriday Bulldog Mike Rabb.

Unfortunately, the Vikings came up short in their quest for a title, falling to Buras, 17-13.

Dr. Stuart Guey, a dentist who lives in Belle Chasse, will never forget his first visit to Vidalia.

Not only because he was quarterback of the 1966 Buras football team that defeated Vidalia 17-13 to win the state championship. But more because of what that championship meant to members of that team which had been through so much and would go through so much more because of hurricanes named Betsy, Camille and Katrina.

“Those guys on the Vidalia team then are part of our lives,” Guey said. “They have a place in our hearts. I would love to develop some kind of relationship with them. That was a special game. And they were a special group. I have people who come into my office now and say they were at that game. We had so much to overcome, even in that game. It kind of mirrored what we had to go through to get there.”

As teenagers, Guey and his teammates went through a lot of turmoil, caused by desegregation orders and Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

“In 1964, someone dropped molotov cocktails down sewer pipes sticking up through classrooms at a Catholic school and all those kids had to come to public schools,” Guey said. “There were rumors about who did it and jobs were threatened. It was an explosive situation and there could have been some real violence. Then Hurricane Betsy came through in 1965 and we were not able to start school until 1966. We had four junior players transfer and we had to play our football games on Saturday because we did not have lights. We used makeshift bleachers. We lost another starter because of the desegregation order. It was a hot, political climate between private and public school people. Our principal left and Coach (Buddy) Rhodes was the only head coach left. Everyone knew 1966 could be a special year for our football team and our parents were able to convince government officials to wait. But they backed off doing anything about the lights.”

Guey said despite Buras being ranked No. 1 all year and finishing unbeaten, that was probably why the state championship game was played in Vidalia.

“We played Mansfield in the semifinals on Friday during the day and their fans had to travel back Friday night because there was not place to stay,” Guey said. We had one playoff game on the West Bank in West Jefferson.”

But Buras High survived and was rewarded with an undefeated season, culminating with the state championship win in Vidalia.

“That was really something,” Guey said. “Some magical moments occurred. It seemed everyone in Plaquemines Parish headed to VIdalia. We said the last one to leave needed to turn the lights out.”

Guey, who is in his 45th year practicing dentistry, said Buras, Bootheville, Venice and Port Sulphur consolidated with Buras being Plaquemine South.

‘It’s pretty desolate now,” Guey said.

It was a different atmosphere in 1966. After a second Buras touchdown was called back, a Wildcat fan ran on the field.

“We were able to get him back in the stands,” Guey said.

Guey said there was another play where he was rolling out toward the Buras bench and stepped out of bounds before throwing a completed pass.

“We had a doctor on our sidelines and about that time someone reached over, grabbed his black bag and threw it and hit the referee in the head,” Guey said. “The referee reached for his flag and I said, ‘Please don’t throw that flag, That wasn’t our fault and you see that mob. I don’t know what they will do.”

Guey said the official tucked his flag back in his pocket and play resumed with the completion.

Rhodes shared Coach of the Year honors with University High’s Glenn Brady. Buras lineman Malcolm Jurisich, who is now deceased, was named Outstanding Lineman in Class A.

“Malcolm injured his knee and missed all the playoff games,” Guey said.

Buras running back Carlos Guttry and Jurisich were named to the Class A All-State team.

“We had two sophomores backing up Carlos,” Guey said. “One was ‘Where Do I Go’ and the other was ‘What Do I Do,’ because every time they came into the game after the play was called they would ask that.”

But they were part of the brotherhood.

“We had a bunch of boys who became men that year because of all the circumstances even though we didn’t realize it at the time,” Guey said.

And the circumstances would continue.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina practically wiped out the small town of Buras and flooded Buras High School.

“The first floor was inundated with water,” Guey said. “The second floor was untouched. Most of us felt the school could have been saved.”

The sad thing is that the film from the state championship game was lost.

“I would love it if someone from Vidalia had a tape of that game and would not mind making a copy of it for me,” Guey said. “I would drive all the way up there.”‘

That’s where Buddy Spillers, who was named most outstanding lineman in District 2A that season, stepped in.

Spillers, who played center and noseguard for the 2A state finalist team, called Guey and invited him on a golf, fishing and hunting trip with some of the former Vidalia players.

“We’ll have him and any of his former teammates come here for a visit,” Spillers said.

Guey and his wife visited Natchez four years ago and Spillers joined them for breakfast.

A documentary by David Haspel about Buras and that championship season never developed.

Spillers and David Yates actually met with Haspel about 13 years ago to discuss the documentary.

Spillers and Guey said they never heard back from Haspel.

Spillers said the documentary was going to be about the people of Buras after Katrina, but the football team was going to be part of it. The state championship game could be a story of its own.

Jimmy Hibbs, who was a key to the Vikings’ success that season, rushed for 1,044 yards on 98 attempts for an amazing 10.6 yards per carry average that year and also caught 10 passes and scored 72 points.

Hibbs and Mike Morgan stood back near their own end zone for the opening kickoff.

Morgan averaged 6.2 yards per carry that season.

The kick sailed down the field and stopped on the 3-yard line, where a Buras lineman fell on it.

With only one minute taken off the clock, Guey scored scored from one yard out to give the visiting team an early lead as Pete Dimak added the conversion kick.

“We all just kind of stood around in a circle and looked at it,” Hibbs said. “And their coach yelled at their lineman to fall on it. That burdened me for a long time. But that play didn’t beat us. They had an outstanding team. They actually had two touchdowns called back.”

“We had back-to-back touchdowns called back,”  Guey said. “One was for a clip and another was for an illegal receiver downfield. The same player, a freshman, was called on both penalties. We were thinking, ‘Man, what do we have to do.’”

“Jimmy was the one who got us to the show,” Spillers said. “We actually thought that ball was going to roll into the end zone. But it was not our only mistake of the game and certainly did not lose the game for us.”

Spillers said the Vikings had not seen a kicker like Dimak, who is now deceased.

Vidalia finished 5-6 a year earlier in 1965.

“That senior team went undefeated as freshmen,” Spillers said. “And we played Natchez and other teams like that. It was a very balanced group. And Don Alonzo was a wonderful coach. Fred Foster did a good job teaching us techniques when he was coach, and Coach Alonzo was a great motivator. In our first meeting he told us the 11 toughest guys were going to play, whether that meant having 11 quarterbacks or 11 guards. He motivated us, but he never raised his voice.”

Alonzo, who coached at Natchez Cathedral earlier, moved up from assistant coach to head coach in 1966.

Alonzo died in 2008 in Lafayette at the age of 78.

“Coach Alonzo came to me before the season and told me I was close to starting, but I would have to get better at blocking,” Spillers said. “He told me I could come out and work with him and Coach (Larry) Legg. It was like having a math teacher taking you home to tutor you.”

Hibbs, who set Vidalia High rushing records his junior and season seasons, said the emotions ran high for that contest, much like a Vidalia-Ferriday game.

The Vidalia Town Council and Mayor Sydney Murray had proclaimed that day as “Vidalia Viking Day.”

Alonzo, who joined Vidalia as Foster’s assistant coach in 1964 after a successful run at Cathedral, had his troops more than ready for the contest.

“Coach Alonzo studied the game and we were very disciplined playing under him,” Spillers said. “He believed in physical training. Everything was very basic. It was three yards and a cloud of dust.”

To show the Vikings were able to recover from the early setback, Vidalia took the second kick and marched 64 yards to paydirt with quarterback Billy Wiggins scoring from one yard out. The kick failed.

Late in the second quarter, the Wildcats moved to the Vidalia 21-yard line, but Vidalia’s defense toughened. Dimak then hit a 40-yard field goal from a slight angle to give Buras a 10-6 halftime lead.

“That was the first time anyone ever kicked a field goal against us,” Hibbs said. 

Guey said Dimak was actually a starting tailback going into the season.

“We were going somewhere and I was driving about 10 miles per hour when a dump truck pulled out in front of me,” Guey said. “Pete broke his arm. He sat on the sidelines in a cast. About halfway through the season he just started practicing kicking the football. 

Folllowing a scoreless third quarter, the Vikings took their only lead in the games Wiggins connected with Allen Grabert on a 38-yard TD play. Alvin “Moose” Frazier, who rushed for 546 yards that year, added the conversion kick for a 13-10 Viking lead.

Guey heard a lot of ruckus while in the visiting dressing room at halftime.

“We were in the lockerroom wondering what was going on,” Guey said. “Just before we went back on the field, our fans got out of the bleachers and made a tunnel from the lockerroom to the field. We were thinking, ‘Look how much they love us.’ That turned the energy on for us.”

Vidalia recovered a Buras fumble on the Buras 33-yard line with 4:25 remaining in the game.

But Vidalia was stopped on downs at the Wildcat 15-yard line.

Fullback Carlos Guttry carried the ball to the 40-yard line on a couple of carries.

“Carlos would throw up before every game,” Guey said. “He did not do it before the Vidalia game and we were worried about that. But when we were almost to the field, he turned around and went in the lockerroom and threw up. We were like, ‘Thank you, Lord.’”

Following a 2-yard loss and a run, Buras faced third and very short. That’s when the the play of the game happened, Guey said.

“We had about three third downs we just made, with the last one Mays lunging to the get first down,” Guey said. “And we also had a play where they tackled our receiver before he caught the ball and we got the interference call.”

Guey hit Gary Mays on a 62-yard pass play for the winning score. Dimak added the point-after kick.

“We got the call to play in real tight,” Hibbs said. “They faked a dive play and their quarterback lobbed the ball over everybody and their man walked into the end zone. That was one of the most disappointing losses I have ever been a part of.”

“We sent two men downfield and then they went off toward the sideline and Mays went down the middle of the field,” Guey said. “I remember seeing his No. 13 and one of Vidalia’s linemen knocked the crap out of me. When I looked up, Gary was crossing the goal line and threw the ball straight up in the air.”

Vidalia linebacker and kicker Danny Ford remembers that play, as well, from a different perspective.

Ford, a sophomore that season, broke his arm earlier in a junior varsity game and was walking up and down the sideline until the final minutes.

“The coaches had asked me to go up to the press box and get the stats,” Ford said. “It was really tough to watch that game from the sideline. But when I was coming down the steps. I looked up and saw the pass and them go into the end zone. That was really, really tough.”

Guey said Guttry and Mays ran a 10-flat in the 100-yard dash.

“They had a halfback who was like trying to catch a greased pig,” Vidalia lineman Alford Beach said. “He would be looking at you, and then he was gone.”

 Hibbs was held well below his season average.

“They had two people following me everywhere I went,” Hibbs said.

“Hibbs and Wiggins were tough son of a guns,” Guey said

Late in the third quarter of that game, Mike Morgan returned a punt 51 yards to the Kinder 6-yard line, but the Vikings fumbled the ball away at the Yellow Jacket  2-yard line.

Wiggins was intercepted by Mays at midfield on Vidalia’s final series and the Wildcats ran out the clock.

“I was crying after the game because we lost the game and I also lost my horse,” Beach said. “My dad promised me if we won that game he was going to get me a horse.”

 “We had people on the field hugging and crying,” Guey said. “They finally just turned the lights out on us.”

As a matter of fact, the partying seemed to start way before the game.

Walter Stampley, who started the Vidalia High football program in 1952 and coached it until becoming principal in 1958, said Buras fans arrived at 4:30 p.m. with a tub full of beer.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” Stampley said. “I had never had anything like that happen before.”

Vidalia beat Newman 15-0 to advance to the finals after cruising past Homer (32-7) and DeQuincy (33-6). Buras outscored Franklinton and Ascension by a total score of 68-0 before defeating Mansfield to advance to the title game.

“Things started happening for us in district,” Spillers said. “When we got to the playoffs, we were picked to lose every game. Mike DeSalvo played center and noseguard for Newman. I weighed 180 pounds and he weighed 230 pounds and he was big and mean. We watched the film and he dominated everybody. Coach Alonzo took me off to the side, put his arms around me and told me this guy was going to beat me up, just do the best I could. I was scared to death. But that fear motivated me. I hit him with a forearm to his face as hard as I could the first play. I ended up handling him pretty good.”

Spillers was injured late in the game after getting clipped.

The Vikings, who finished the season at 10-2-1, with the tie being a 13-13 game against Ferriday, were well represented on the Class A All-State team. 

Frazier was named Offensive Specialist of the Year in Class A.

Frazier, Wiggins, Hibbs, Spillers and Beach were named to the first team, while Grabert and David Yates were named to the second team. 

Grabert finished with 19 catches for 342 yards and four touchdowns.

Beach had 10 unassisted tackles and 70 assists.

Frazier totaled 14 unassisted tackles and had 92 assists.

Named to the All-District 2A team on offense and defense were Spillers (Most Outstanding Lineman), Wiggins (Most Outstanding Back), Frazier and Hibbs. Allen Grabert, Beach, David Yates and Bobby Patton were also named to the district first team.

Larry Boles at guard and Beach on defense were on the second team, while Morgan, Bobby Spinks and Dickie Robards were named as honorable mentions on the all-district team.

“That was the best all-around football team Vidalia has ever had,” said Hibbs, who also had 14 unassisted tackles and four assists on defense. “We had so many quality players. And we grew up playing football, basketball and baseball together. We were a very close group.”

Vidalia would advance to the quarterfinals in 1967, playing to a 0-0 tie with Kinder, but losing out because Kinder had 11 first downs to five for Vidalia.

 

 

 

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