Farmer’s win State Championship with winner-take-all two point try

By Markel Braggs
Contributing Writer
What an ending to a great season!! We are the Division III non-select 2023 State Champions!
Coach Joe Spatfora, the assistant coaches, and the Farmers’ football team entered the 2023 season with many high school football experts and enthusiasts and even some fans believing this was going to be a rebuilding year, not a championship year. But the Farmers beat the odds even after losing two early season games to 5A opponents, then losing two district games and finishing third in district 2-3A. Coach Spat and the coaches still believed that the Farmers could make a championship run with the leadership of his seniors, and he was not wrong as they beat St. James by 1 in the Superdome on December 8.
Based upon the strength of schedule the Farmers still earned a first round bye and convincingly beat Port Allen and finished off a good Bogalusa team to head to their fifth straight semi-final game. The Farmers went on the road to play top-seeded and undefeated Jena with a “Dome or Home” attitude and left the stadium “Walking to New Orleans”, where the Farmers would meet an old foe in the St. James Wildcats, who ended the Farmers’ 2018 season when the two teams met in the playoff semi-finals.
But this was the year of destiny. It had been 10 years since the Farmers won the 2013 state championship and these seniors believed in each other, were very focused, and knew it was their time to make history.
Game on!
The Farmers took the kickoff and on the first series, senior QB Jorden Hill rolled out of the pocket, scrambled to the open field where he turned on the afterburners in route to a 56-yard touchdown. Ryan Reeder continued his perfect postseason when he added the extra point, giving the Farmer’s an early 7-0 lead.
St. James and their senior QB Brayden Williams, who had passed for 2,506 yards, 30 touchdowns, 654 rushing yards, and 15 rushing touchdowns, put the Farmers’ defense on high alert. Williams and the Wildcats drove the ball downfield against the Farmers’ defense, and they ended the drive with a rushing touchdown but the PAT was no good and now the score was 7-6.
It was a QB duel in the first half when Farmers QB Hill took the ball
right up the middle for a 48-yard rushing TD on Union Parish’s second possession. Reeder’s extra point was good, giving the Farmers a 14-6 lead.
The Farmers’ defense allowed a huge play when Wildcat QB Williams threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to WR Kobe Brown but the PAT was, again, no good and the Farmers remained up 14-12.
Hill and the Farmers stalled out on their next drive and the Wildcats’ QB took advantage of the momentum and drove the ball down the field where Williams kept it for the touchdown and the 2-point conversion was good. The Wildcats go up 20-14 in the 2nd quarter.
Both offenses struggled to move the ball in the next 2 series with the Farmers fumbling the ball even after a surprise move of sending in senior defensive lineman Ty’travius Wallace who rushed up the middle for 6 yards and 1st down in the series, and St. James throwing a pass intercepted by Jorden Hill.
Hill’s interception created momentum right before halftime as he returned the interception for 48 yards and in 26 seconds ran 4 plays ending with RB Jy’marion Island’s 39-yard TD run on 4th down. And once again Reeder’s extra point was good and the Farmers led 21-20 at the half.
The 2nd half started with an on-side kick by the Farmers but St. James recovered the ball. The Farmers’ defense held the Wildcats to a three-and-out.
The Farmers put together a long drive that ate away 7:32 minutes of the clock. In the St. James red zone on 3rd down Jorden Hill kept the ball, rolled out, and dived into the end zone for his 3rd rushing touchdown of the night. Reeder’s PAT was good and the Farmers’ lead was now 28-20 late in the 3rd.
The Wildcats’ offense got the ball back with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and the ball on their 30-yard line. Moving down the field the Wildcats faced a 4th and 15 when Williams threw a 35-yard pass to his WR Trenton Ester for a score and the 2-point conversion was good. The score was tied at 28 with 11:41 left in the 4th.
On the next drive for the Farmers Hill dropped back, threw a pass in double coverage, and was picked off by Garry White to give the ball back to the Wildcats.
From there QB Brayden Williams handed the ball off to Kani King-Young for the 18-yard touchdown run and the extra was good for the Wildcats to take the lead 35-28.
Midway in the 4th, the Wildcats quickly shut down the Farmers’ next drive and took over on downs with 6:28 left in the game. Starting on their own 36-yard line the Wildcats attempted to finish out the game, but the Farmers shut them down with a big 4th and 4 stop on the UPHS 48. The Wildcats had to punt.
With just 2:52 left in the game and starting on their own 22-yard line, the Farmers began one final march down the field. RB Jy’marion Island started with a couple of short gains and then broke free for 11 yards and then again for 14 yards to move the ball to the Union 40.
Facing 3rd and 9 on the Wildcats’ 45-yard line, Jorden Hill completed an 8-yard pass to Tomorrio Bilberry to bring up 4th and 1. Jy’marion Island rushed for a 14-yard gain down to the St. James 23-yard line. After an incomplete pass and delay of game penalty and facing 2nd down and 15, QB Hill dropped back and threw a sneaky 19-yard pass to Tomorrio Bilberry just in front of the St. James’ secondary.
Then Jy’marion Island took over with a gain of 5 yards and with 11 seconds left on the clock lunged forward over the right guard for a TD. The score was tied 35 all. After 2 St. James’ timeouts, Coach Spat made the decision to go for 2 and the win. The Farmers’ offensive line stood their ground and senior blocker Arjavian Foster led the way for Jy’marion Island’s 2-point conversion. The Farmers took the lead 36-35.
Ryan Reeder sent the kickoff 50 yards to the St. James 25-yard line. With just 6 seconds left in the game, the St. James QB launched a deep middle Hail Mary pass down the field, but with the interception of a lifetime to end his high school career, Tomorrio Bilberry grabbed the ball to seal the victory.
The Farmers and their fans went wild while waiting for the awards presentation. Senior QB Jorden Hill was named Farmers’ MVP after rushing for 157 all-purpose yards, passing for 78 yards, and scoring 3 rushing touchdowns. Senior defensive lineman Ty’travius Wallace accepted the state championship trophy on behalf of the Farmers. After the presentation, the players and coaches ran to the sideline to thank our 12th man–the Carroll Bulldogs Marching Band who kept the players and fans pumped up for the entire game and presented a phenomenal halftime show.
Your Union Parish High School Farmers are the 2023 Division III non-select champs going 10-4 on the season and winning in stunning fashion one of the most exciting state championship games of the weekend.

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