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Breaking through: Ferriday’s first season win extra sweet over rival

Ferriday High School’s JaylIn Neal carries the ball while Vidalia High School’s Colby Kimball goes for the tackle during Friday’s game. Neal also ran the ball for a touchdown, helping Ferriday top Vidalia, 20-14. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

FERRIDAY — One big play by Ferriday High School’s Jaylin Neal turned Friday night’s game into a Viking conquest for the Trojans.

The Trojans were locked in a 14-14 battle with Vidalia High School, and the Vikings had held Ferriday under 50 yards of total offense when Neal received a pitch from quarterback Ronald Davis.

Neal turned the corner around left end, ran through a couple of Vidalia tacklers and raced toward open field. Sixty-three yards later, Ferriday had more than doubled its offensive output and taken a 20-14 lead that the Trojan defense would hold for the win.

“I give great thanks to my line and everybody else that blocked for me,” Neal said about the game-winning play. “Everybody executed on that play, and when I got the ball and saw the hole, it was exciting.”

Neal’s 111 rushing yards — all of which were gained in the second half — accounted for more than half of Ferriday’s total yards.

At top, members of the Ferriday High School football team, including senior Jarvis Brooks, center, raise their hands and helmets while singing their alma mater after winning the game. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

“We started off sluggish, but we put it together and executed the right way,” he said.

The win marked head coach Cleothis Cummings’ first for the Trojans.

“The kids played hard, and my assistant coaches did a remarkable job,” Cummings said. “It’s unexplainable (how I feel). We fought to win, and we tried to preach don’t give up, and I asked them how bad did they want it? Now we just have to continue to build.”

Ferriday jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but Vidalia fought back and tied the game 14-14 at halftime.

Vidalia head coach Gary Parnham said he was proud of the way the Vikings rebounded after falling behind early and came back to have a chance to win the game in the second half.

“We got to take the positive from it in that we had a team on the ropes, but we have to finish that and take control of the football game.”

Ferriday’s Jarvis Brooks started the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter. The Trojans failed on the two-point conversion and led 6-0.

On the ensuing kickoff, Vidalia’s Torrey Smith fumbled the ball after a 10-yard return, and Ferriday’s Raydon Jefferson scooped it up and took it 22 yards for another Ferriday score. Brooks added a two-point run to give Ferriday a 14-0 lead.

Vidalia got on the board early in the second quarter when Charles Albert and Cole Cangemi tackled Brooks in the end zone for a safety.

The Vikings got a short field after the ensuing kickoff and finished off a 45-yard touchdown drive with an 8-yard run by Stewart Mallory. The two-point run failed, and Ferriday led 14-8 with 5:33 left in the half.

Vidalia punched it in the end zone once more just before halftime when Dee Whitley finished off a 40-yard touchdown drive with a 1-yard run. The two-point run failed again, and the Vikings settled for a 14-14 tie at the half.

The Vikings threatened to tie the game twice after Neal’s touchdown run, but negative plays and penalties inside the Ferriday 30-yard line kept them out of the end zone. The game ended with Ferriday’s Trey Hall intercepting a Hail Mary pass as the clock expired.

Freshman Jonterrius Townsend took a majority of the snaps filling in for injured quarterback Michael Whitley, and Townsend provided much more than just a replacement Friday night.

Townsend finished with 165 yards rushing and also completed two passes for 21 yards.

“(Townsend) did fine,” Parnham said. “He went both ways, and I thought he did an excellent job. He’s young, and he’s going to learn and become a fine football player.”

The Vikings outgained Ferriday 261-208 but lost the turnover battle 3-1 to the Trojans.

“It’s tough, and we’re doing everything we can, but we can’t get down, because we’ve worked too hard to quit now,” Parnham said. “We just have to come back Monday and regroup for Bolton (High School).”

Vidalia (0-3) will host Bolton next week, while Ferriday (1-2) will host Wilkinson County High School (4-0).