Meridian Star

September 26, 2013

Wildcats get fresh start with district play

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Meridian High school head coach Larry Weems isn’t normally a fan of the bye week. But, after four-straight bruising games chipped away at his already thin roster, last week’s open date was a sight for sore eyes.

    “It helped us this year,” Weems said. “We don’t have a lot of depth on our team this year. We don’t have a lot of bodies, and we were beat up a little bit. The bye week allowed us to review some things that we needed to get better, and it gave us an opportunity to get guys back. I would say this year it was actually a positive.”

    Meridian (3-1) will host Jim Hill (1-4) for its annual homecoming game as the Wildcats open up District 3 6A play tonight at

    Jim Hill comes into the matchup on a low note as the Tigers were shutout in their last two games. Though the visitors from Jackson don’t appear to match up with Meridian on paper, Weems said they have enough athletes to cause the Wildcats some trouble if this his team comes to the game unprepared.

    “They are big on the line of scrimmage and they have some play makers,” Weems said. “If we don’t pay attention to what they are doing and how they line up on offense, they can hurt us.”

    Here are five things to watch for this week:

    1) Into the fire: Tonight’s game will open up district play for the Wildcats, who share District 3 6A with No. 1 Brandon, No. 2 Petal and No. 4 Oak Grove according to the Associated Press Mississippi Press Poll. Weems told his team during the break to forget the first half of the season and come into tonight’s game with a clean slate. With only four playoff slots available per district, Weems said he expects a battle from here on out.

    “What we did has no bearing on the opportunity we really want, and that’s to make the playoffs,” Weems said. “It’s from now on. It’s what you do these next seven weeks that will determine whether you get to the postseason or not.”

    2) “Extra-curricular activities”: Last week during the ESPN 104.9 Mississippi Coaches Show, Weems stated his team did not come out with the same intensity in practice during the bye week. After subjecting the Wildcats to some “extra-curricular” activities after practice, Weems said his team should be in good shape both mentally and physically for tonight’s game.

    “I think we got their attention last week,” Weems said. “I think they understand there’s an expectation we have to take care of.”

    3) Penalty Problems: Last week the Wildcats racked up 100 yards of penalties on defense against Clinton. Weems called the performance “unacceptable” and stated his team needs to become more disciplined as they head into district play.

    “We were terrible Friday night,” he said. “ You just can't give away yards like that. We were very generous folks last game. Christmas came early, especially on defense.”

    4) On the mend: The extra time off allowed a few injured 'Cats some needed rest. Weems said he expects his team to be close to 100 percent when they take the field tonight. Junior Bo Dearman (shoulder) and senior Richard McQuarley (ankle) are both cleared to play.

    "We should all be back," Weems said. "We kept Bo (Dearman) out of contact this week. He hasn't hit in a while, but he'll be suited up and cleared to go."

    5) More C.J.: Before the season started, Weems said he planned on using senior safety C.J. Hampton in the slot-receiver role. However, due to the Wildcats' lack of depth, Hampton's offensive snaps have been limited so far. Weems said he is keeping his star defender off the field on offense in order to keep him fresh for defense. But, if the Wildcats can get off the field quicker on defense, Weems said he plans to start using Hampton both ways.

    "If we can get a little more effective on defense, I could utilize him a little more on offense," Weems said. "But, as we get down in the season a little bit more and the weather starts getting cooler, I think you'll start seeing a little more of No. 4 on the offensive side of the ball."