Meridian Star

November 14, 2013

‘Cats head to the coast to take on Gulfport in 1st round

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Three weeks ago, the Meridian High School football team was licking its wounds riding a two-game losing streak into Petal. Now, it appears the 45-21 drumming Meridian put on the Panthers has not only saved the Wildcats’ playoff hopes but turned around their season altogether.

    Since the win on Oct. 25, Meridian scored 40 or more points in its next two games, blowing out Terry and Forrest Hill to clinch the No. 3 seed in Region 3-6A.

    “I hope we are playing a little better,” Meridian head coach Larry Weems said. “I think we need to be more consistent, but I think we are playing better.

    “Any time you win against a quality team, it’s a big win. Petal is a quality team. Hopefully, that game has shown us potentially what we can do if we do things right.”

    Tonight, the Wildcats will look to ride their current three-game winning streak to the coast as they take on Region 4-6A No.2 seed Gulfport High School at 7 p.m.

    The Admirals (9-2, 6-1) are led by senior quarterback Thad Miller who has passed for 2,873 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. Weems said Meridian (8-3, 5-2) will need to play near mistake-free football if it is going to advance to the second round.

    “They are a good team,” Weems said of Gulfport. “They have athletes, they’re well coached. They are going to attack you where you are most vulnerable, and we have to be ready for that. We have to execute at a high level, and when we get an opportunity to make a play we have to make it.”

    The Wildcats have had no trouble making big plays this season but have struggled to move the ball consistently at times on offense. Penalties haunted the young Meridian squad in the regular season preventing them from sustaining long drives and working the clock.

    While Weems said his team will still work to control the ball on offense, he is not about to give up the Wildcats’ big-play ability.

    “We go for it,” Weems said. “We try to extend the field, and if we think we can hit a play we try it. One of the hardest things to do is have a team go 14 or 15 plays without messing up. Usually you can’t run that many plays without making a mistake or turning over the ball. So, when you can get huge yardage plays you take them.”

    The Admirals are no strangers to big plays either as they boast two playmakers at the wide receiver position in Jevon Floyd and his brother Richaud. Jevon leads Gulfport with 1,048 yards and 12 touchdowns while Richaud has 934 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year.

    While Gulfport has plenty of speed on both sides of the ball, the Admirals don’t possess the same size that has caused Meridian matchup problems this season. Gulfport might not be as big as Brandon or South Panola, who both used their size to wear down the Wildcats, but Weems said the Admirals offer plenty of threats of their own.

    “This game is a movement game, and you need to cover ground,” Weems said. “If you can’t execute in space, you are going to have trouble. If you were asking me if I could have speed or size, I’d take speed every time.”

    Last year, Meridian lost to D’Iberville, 27-21, in the opening round of the playoffs. Despite being the visiting team this year, a win on the road would not be a surprise for the ‘Cats due to the strength of Region 3. Regardless of the high expectations, Weems said his team will continue to take one game at a time and certainly not overlook the Admirals.

    “I don’t even know how people can say one team or region is better than the other,” Weems said. “I haven’t seen any of those guys play until I got film on Gulfport. The one thing I can tell you with high school kids is that they can play from one end to the other end any Friday night. If Gulfport plays well and we don’t, they’ll win the ballgame. The same goes the other way around for us.”