One play away: Trojan head coach, fans reflect on what could have been

Published 12:22 am Sunday, December 3, 2017

A day after falling in the LHSAA Class 2A semifinals, Ferriday High School football coach Stanley Smith already has a motto for next year’s team — and possibly for the rest of his career.

“We were one play away,” Smith said.

Ferriday (11-3) ended its season in heartbreaking fashion Friday night, falling to St. Helena 12-6 on an untimed touchdown pass to end the game. Its chances at playing for a state championship in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans suddenly went from a season-long fiery passion to a crushed defeat.

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“I just hate it for them. We were so close,” Smith said. “We had several situations where we could have won the game. We showed resilience, and we just came up short.”

Smith — in his first year as head coach — had hoped for more, but said he can’t complain.

The Trojans completed possibly the toughest Class 2A regular-season schedule in the state of Louisiana, and with hardly any blemishes.

Ferriday took down Class 5A Alexandria High in its first game of the year, 37-27, followed next by a decisive shutout of Class 4A Franklin Parish, 58-0. It then defeated Class 5A LaGrange, 14-13.

“I appreciate the effort because we came a long way,” Smith said. “I’ve seen this team go from boys to men. I’m proud of them.”

Reflecting on the high points, still Smith said it’s the last play he will remember.

“It was close, real close,” he said.

Smith’s love for the Trojans comes with good reason, playing for Ferriday as a middle linebacker and graduating in 2001. His first coaching job was also with Ferriday, serving as defensive coordinator in 2010.

His first year as head coach was everything he expected, Smith said.

“And then some,” he said. We fought through some injuries, and fought through some adversities. We battled through a lot, and I know we fought hard.

“I’m excited about the future because we have a lot of talent coming back. We are hoping to continue to build on the program and move forward.”

While Smith felt for his players, there was a full house of Ferriday fans who felt the same sorrow.

Sitting on the front row Friday was senior linebacker Lewis Matthews’ family, including his uncle, Anthony Walker.

Walker and his wife, Cynthia, traveled eight hours by car from their residence in Lawton, Okla., to watch Matthews Friday.

“We came out to show our support and love, regardless of how many miles it is. That’s what we do, we show up,” Anthony Walker said.

The Walkers left at 6 a.m. Friday morning to make it time for the game, but would have to take back their extra belongings they had packed for New Orleans.

“We packed for six days,” Anthony Walker said. “We wanted to be ready to go to the Dome.”

But, of course that won’t happen — because of one play.

“I think they know I love them and would do anything for them — fight for them until the end,” Smith said.

Hopefully in the future, an ending much different than Friday night.