Meridian Star

November 23, 2013

Wildcats bite Bulldogs, headed to South State

By Tony Tsoukalas / ttsoukalas@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Meridian High School quarterback J’Mar Smith saw his opportunity and called his own number, running in 5-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to help the Wildcats upset Brandon 30-28 Friday night at Ray Stadium.  

    “I just knew I had to put it in and score,” Smith said. “The coach gave me a play to throw it, but I saw something different. The defense dropped back and gave me a hole, so I just took it in for the run.”

    Trailing Brandon 28-24 with 6:39 to play, Smith helped drive the Wildcats down the field, completing an 8-yard pass to receiver Corey Davis on fourth-and-7 from the Brandon 42-yard line to keep Meridian alive and set up an eventual first-and-goal from the 6.  

    The Wildcats stalled on three straight running plays before Smith tucked the ball and barely beat a Brandon defender to the end zone, crashing in with 1:52 left on the clock.

    “I tell him right now he made a great play,” Meridian head coach Larry Weems said. “If he hadn’t have made it in, I’d probably be choking him.”

    Meridian kicker Aaron Garrett missed the ensuing extra point attempt giving the Bulldogs a chance to come back and win the game with a field goal.

    Brandon rallied back all the way to the Meridian 39-yard line with nine seconds to play. But, Meridian’s Richard McQuarley was able to bring down Bulldogs’ receiver Josh Stowers before he could reach the sidelines at the 27-yard line, and Brandon was unable to run another play as the final horn sounded.

    The normally subdued Weems embraced players with tears in his eyes after the game, telling his team they “shocked the world” with their win.

    “If there was ever a David and Goliath battle other than the one we read about in the Bible, I would have to say this was it,” he said. “Brandon is just a really talented, well-coached team. We had to play that perfect game, and I don’t know if it was perfect, but I’m emotional because I know what it took for our kids. They played their tails off.”

    Tied 14-14 with five seconds left in the half, Garrett hit a 42-yard field goal as time expired to put Meridian up 17-14 at the break. Weems said the decision to kick the ball was crucial.

    “I was fixing to go for it,” he said. “For some reason, I came to my senses and I knew we had a lot better chance of getting points on the board. Aaron just made a great kick, and I’m glad we ended up kicking it.”

    Smith finished the day with 252 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-23 passing while McQuarley carried the ball 19 times for 98 yards and a touchdown.

    Brandon was led by junior running back Darien Tillis who rushed the ball 21 times for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

    Meridian will travel to Oak Grove for South State next week.