This is game No. 24 out of the top 40 games played by Concordia Parish teams.

The stage was set for the 2002 regular season finale between Vidalia High and Ferriday High.

Vidalia High was looking for its first undefeated season, while Ferriday was 7-2, losing to McCall in overtime.

"I never really thought about the unbeaten aspect, I treated every game as if it was a championship game," said former Viking Matt Hinson. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. Our team didn't just want to win, we wanted to beat the other team down to where they wanted to quit at halftime. There was pressure because we lost to them the last two years so it was time to start doing and stop talking."

The Vikings were averaging 38.7 points a game, to 27.6 for Ferriday. The Viking defense was allowing 14.3 points a game, while Ferriday was allowing 17.3 points a contest.

"We named it 'Vidalia Week' every time we played them because it had to have a special," said former Ferriday High football coach James McFarland. "You were playing your rival right down the road and the fans put a lot into it. You could win nine games, but it wasn't a successful season if you did not beat Vidalia. We had some good athletes who didn't want to lose, and Vidalia had some good athletes who didn't want to lose."

The game lived up to the hype as the Vikings pulled out a 20-13 win at Melz Field in front of an overflow crowd of 3,000 fans.

The Viking win ended a five-game losing streak to the Trojans.

McFarland, who is now athletic director at Riser Middle School in West Monroe, said coaching at Ferriday was the best part of being at Ferriday High.

"The kids were really great," McFarland said. "The pressure comes with the territory and you can't let that be a factor. I had great support at home and the kids and Ferriday High were behind me and that made it really, really good."

They were certainly behind the Trojans in that 2002 finale.

 "When we all walked out on the field and saw all the people I was stunned, but after our first defensive play when I sacked the quarterback I had tunnel vision," Matt Hinson said.

On Ferriday's first possession, Brennan Smith ran 25 yards to VIking 2-yard line and took it into the end zone on the next play.

Smith added the kick for a 7-0 lead.

"We won the coin toss and returned the kickoff, but three plays into the game we fumbled, which led to Ferriday's first score," Brett Hinson said. "In the second quarter, we punched one in, but Ferriday matched it two possessions later then recovered a squib kick on the kickoff, but our defense stayed strong and stopped them from scoring." 

Vidalia got on the board in the second quarter as Tony Hawkins passed 33 yards to Josh Bush at the Ferriday 5-yard line. Two plays later, Hawkins hit Bush on a 6-yard TD conniption. Conversion afield.

Smith then carried the ball eight times for 43 yards on Ferriday's next possession. Following a penalty against the Trojans, Tyrrence Taylor hit Chris Sheppard on a 13-yard score to put the Trojans up 13-6.

Ferriday recovered the ensuing kickoff at Vidalia's 40, but the Trojans fumbled the ball away at the Viking 40.

Hawkins passed 15 yards to Bush and followed with a 10-yard pass to Roderick Randall to the Trojan 27-yard line with 4:12 remaining in the first half.

An offsides call against Ferriday on fourth down gave Vidalia a first down on the Ferriday 18. Randall finished off the drive with a 4-yard run. The kick failed, leaving Vidalia trailing 13-12 at halftime.

Hawkins and Louis McNulty teamed up on a 10-yard scoring play that was negated by an illegal use of hands penalty. Hawkins teamed up with Jessie Lyles on a 13-yard scoring play. Hawkins hit Stephen Cooper on the conversion for a 20-13 Viking lead.

Ferriday recovered a fumble at the Trojan 24-yard line. Smith, who finished with 141 yards on 20 carries, brooke loose on a 38-yard run to the Viking 38.

Facing fourth-and-one at the VIking 29, Smith was stopped short of the first down.

Ferriday moved down tot he Vidalia 21, but the VIking defense held.

“The second half was a defensive showcase," Brett Hinson said. "We couldn't move the ball until we finally found a weakness by releasing our tight end in a drag pattern across the field and that’s what helped us score the go-ahead touchdown. One of the changing points in the game was when Ferriday went for it on fourth down with about five minutes left in the game. Everybody in the stadium knew who was getting the ball -- Brennen Smith. We stopped him with inches to spare. I found a crease through the line and tripped up Smith causing him to fall forward and out of nowhere Hannibal Yearby cleaned him up to finish the play and cause them to turn the ball back over to us."

"Brett made a good play," Yearby said. "Brennan was a good, strong running back, but we were prepared. The game was on the line and we had to show them who was the better team."

Ferriday got one more chance with two minutes remaining from their 36-yard line.

Taylor completed three passes to the Vidala 35, but on fourth-and-14, Taylor was sacked with 50 seconds remaining.

"They got one more chance and 'Cosmo' (Taylor) led Ferriday down the field to about our 40-yard line and we had two sacks in a row that sealed the deal," Brett Hinson said. "Vidalia versus Ferriday was intense enough, but to add Senior Night and the district championship at Melz Field amped it up even more. The only way I can describe playing Ferriday at Melz Field is like walking into Death Valley (LSU) as the opposing team, especially being the crosstown rival. The game was a slugfest on defense, it seemed like every play someone got their tail knocked off. You had to keep your head on a swivel.

"This was probably one of the biggest games that I have ever played in," Hinson added. "I was only a sophomore and it was like playing in the Super Bowl that night. That game gave us the perfect record for the regular season and made history for Vidalia. Just being a part of that is something that I have been able to carry with me and always will. That team wasn't the biggest or the strongest, but we had a lot of heart and knew that on Friday we were about to get after someone and get a win."

Vidalia lost to Riverside in second round of the playoffs that season, while Ferriday fell to Riverside in the third round.

The Vikings advanced to the Class 2A semifinals in 2003, falling to West St. John in Edgard.




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