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October 31, 2013

Meridian returns home after big win

MERIDIAN — Don't write the eulogy on the 2013 Meridian High School Wildcats just yet.

    After losing back-to-back games in blowout fashion to Oak Grove and Brandon, many questioned the Wildcats' chances of contending for a 6A championship.

    Last week, Meridian shook off those doubters, clobbering Petal 45-21 on the road while putting together its most complete game of the season.  

    “Sometimes things just work,” MHS head coach Larry Weems said. “You'll find attitude is important, especially with young kids. It's not an excuse, but anytime you get behind with younger kids, they tend to lose focus a little bit. We didn't have that last week, and it helped us.

    “I think we need to win all of them. But, I think we needed the last game because we had not played well the last two weeks. We just needed to play well.”

    This week, Meridian (6-3, 3-2) will have no time for a letdown as the 'Cats play host to Terry (5-4, 3-2) tonight at 7 p.m. with playoff hopes on the line.

    A win for Meridian would lock up a No. 3 seed in Region 3-6A while a loss would eliminate the Wildcats from the playoffs.

    “If we don't win, we won't make it to the playoffs,” Weems said. “We are fighting for our playoff life Friday night.”

    The Bulldogs have not been a challenge for Meridian in recent years. The Wildcats are 6-0 in their last six meetings against Terry, outscoring the Bulldogs a combined 281-46. However, Weems said this year he expects a different caliber opponent as Terry comes into Ray Stadium with an upset on its mind.

    “You don't play the games on paper,” Weems said. “Traditionally they have not been very good. But, they have a new coach and they are playing much better. That's why their record is the way it is instead of where it's been in the past. That's why they have a chance to be in the playoffs, because they are better.”

    The Bulldogs will run primarily out of a three-back formation on offense and will look to use plenty of motion plays to confuse Wildcat defenders. Weems said he has stressed the importance of each of his defenders knowing their role on the field during practice.

    “They have some athletes,” Weems said. “They have three or four athletes that are big play-makers. They will run a lot of misdirection back there that makes it hard to follow the ball. If you are just looking at all the movement, you can easily get caught out of position. They have a couple of guys  that can get through, and if you give them room they can break it all the way.”

    Three grueling games against top-five opponents have provided the Wildcats with plenty of experience as they sit a win away from the playoffs. The games have also resulted in some bumps and bruises to the already thin Wildcats. Weems said Meridian will need another strong team performance this week if the Wildcats are going to continue their momentum and make a final push for the playoffs.

    “We have played a lot of tough games, and I have about six guys hurt,” Weems said. “It's a tough road, but we are going to continue piecing it together.”

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