Faircloth still going strong after 36 years

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 24, 2002

VIDALIA, La. &045; To know Dee Faircloth is to be well-versed in a Dee story.

Shoot, you become somebody when you can tell someone a funny story you heard first-hand from Faircloth himself from his 36 years of coaching.

There were the stories of Johann, the Swedish exchange student who once kicked for Vidalia’s junior varsity and is now back home as a palace guard for the Queen of Sweden.

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Or the time he got his first football hit &045; at the age of 5 along the sidelines while his father coached practice at Texas A&M.;

How about the time his friend while in college, former McNeese and La-Monroe head coach Bobby Keasler, rolled his car down an embankment in Monroe while on a date and was pulled out by a coach on a tractor.

But you’d be hard-pressed to find a tale to have people rolling more than the time his Vikings went up against Winnsboro when the Wildcats had current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Anthony &uot;Booger&uot; starting up front.

&uot;Booger always talked smack,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;He came over to me right in front of the sideline and said, ‘Coach, run my way! Run my way!’ I said, ‘Shoot, we’re trying to run away from you.’

&uot;Later on Brian Bradford ran fullback off the tackle, and they met head-on. It was probably the hardest hit I ever saw in a high school game. I thought he (Bradford) was knocked out, but he knocked the mess out of Booger.

&uot;Booger got up, looked at me said said, ‘Whoa, y’all got me there.’ And Booger kind of staggered back to his huddle.&uot;

McFarland was one of a couple players who Faircloth coached against before they became stars in the NFL. And it all makes for good stories &045; facing Marty Booker at Jonesboro-Hodge, Roosevelt Potts at Rayville and Jeffrey Dale at Winnfield.

You can imagine his 2002 Vikings will provide plenty fodder for future stories. His club finished the regular season 10-0 and energized him to the point where he has no idea of how long he’ll continue coaching.

For that, Faircloth was named The Natchez Democrat All-Metro Coach of the Year.

It was Faircloth’s first team to go undefeated and the first in school history since 1961.

That was the year, as Faircloth tells the story, the Vikings went undefeated and finished the season with a win over Sicily Island in Ferriday when the future coach was in the 11th grade.

&uot;It energized me,&uot; said Faircloth, whose team entered the playoffs with a No 2 seed before falling in the second round to Riverside. &uot;I was real proud of this bunch. They gave all they had and then some. They’ve been playing together for a long time through the years. We had good leaders, and they all pulled together. I guess that was the main thing.

&uot;We’ve always had great kids here in Vidalia, and we still have great kids. That’s what makes it enjoyable.&uot;

What made the ride fun for the veteran coach was the team reached such a high level of success with a low number of standout athletes. No one player did most of the damage offensively or defensively as is the case with several stellar teams.

No one stood out on the stat sheet. Everyone kind of knew their role, and each player’s role fit accordingly to the grand scheme of Faircloth’s system.

&uot;They all pulled the rope at the same time,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;I had one team &045; I can’t remember when it was &045; but we went 9-1 and didn’t have any superstars. It was back in the ’70s. We’ve had teams like that before, but this little ol’ bunch played tough. We had a good group of seniors. Jessie Lyles was a leader, and Rob (Faircloth) did a good job in the leadership role. That’s what you’ve got to have because coaches can’t be on the field the whole night.&uot;

Faircloth has tried to go with a balanced attack on offense, and the Vikings were as balanced as could be &045; Lyles, Roderick Randall and Michael Randall split time running the ball, and quarterback Tony Hawkins could run and throw the ball with efficiency.

The Vikings &045; while staying almost injury-free &045; mauled their way through the first half of the season with wins at Pearl River Central, Avoyelles and Ouachita Christian before sweeping District 3-2A with a win at McCall and a huge 20-13 win over rival Ferriday in the season finale.

The Vikings hammered Pine to open the playoffs before dropping a 41-20 loss to Riverside to bow out of the playoffs.

&uot;Riverside had a good ball club,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;We felt like we could beat them if we played ball, but we fell apart in the second quarter. Our kids hadn’t been behind all year, and they couldn’t get over the hump.&uot;

A win would have gotten the Vikings to the quarterfinals, a round Faircloth has gotten clubs in the past before bowing out. Now believed to be the coach with the longest current tenure at one school, Faircloth has never had a team advance past the quarterfinals.

Faircloth has outlasted other longtime coaches in the state &045; Jack Salter at Covington, Alton &uot;Red&uot; Franklin at Haynesville and Roman Bats at Capitol.

Faircloth is still at the school where his initial plan was to get his feet.

Instead, he admits, he got them stuck.

&uot;I’m like an old dinosaur, I guess,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;People are always asking me when I’m going to retire. They want me to do it so bad I’m not. But this town has been good. I’ve raised my kids here, and my grandkids are growing up. That (grandkids) is what keeps me going.&uot;

Coaching, as he sees it, is the pretty much the only life he knows. His father coached at places in Texas and made stops in Louisiana at Block and Leesville.

His father was on the coaching staff at Texas A&M prior to Bear Bryant’s arrival and camp with The Junction Boys.

And while Faircloth has come through the ranks, his list of former players reads like a Who’s Who among area coaches &045; Vidalia softball coach Gary Paul Parnham, Vidalia baseball coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir, Mangham head football coach Alan Ensminger, Vidalia assistant football coach Triand McCoy, Springhill baseball Bennie Cooley and Springhill baseball coach Bill Mosely.

And he always points back to the players as to why he’s stuck around all these years.

&uot;I’ve always been a big joker,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;You’ve got to have humor in your life. These are good kids. We haven’t had bad kids. That’s a tribute to the parents and grandparents. People nowadays are getting to be more I’s instead of we’s. It’s been a good ride. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.&uot;