The Meridian Star
A 35-7 win over Northwest Rankin last week might look good on paper, but don't expect Meridian head coach Larry Weems to gush over his team's Week 1 performance.
Weems said the Wildcats were unable to execute on simple plays against the Cougars, botching a snap, dropping passes and missing blocking assignments. This week, Meridian has continued to work on sustaining drives, as they travel to 4A powerhouse Quitman tonight at 7 p.m.
“We just weren't sharp,” Weems said of last week's game. “Why, I don't know. We made some big plays, but I don't think we made enough consistent plays.”
Many of those big plays came from senior Richard McQuarley. The electric playmaker accounted for 97 yards and a touchdown on the ground while also tallying five catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the air. Due to a loaded back field, which also includes seniors Ed Glenn and Austin Holt, the Wildcats were able to line up McQuarley at both running back and slot receiver. Weems said he plans to continue utilizing McQuarley's versatility in an attempt to keep him fresh while also adding an extra weapon to the Wildcat's attack.
“He just did what I expect him to do,” Weems said of McQuarley. “Rick is also a good receiver, a lot of running backs don't have good hands, but he is someone we can line up at receiver sometimes, and he can be a threat.”
Quitman head coach Steven Bynum said stopping McQuarley and the Wildcat's big-play offense will be key if the Panthers plan to pull off an upset tonight. But, before Quitman can worry about what Meridian does, Bynum said his team must stop hurting itself.
Last week, the Panthers turned the ball over seven times in their 25-21 loss to Laurel.
“It wasn't so much about Meridian this week as it was about fixing some of the things we did wrong,” Bynum said. “Not that we didn't prepare for Meridian, but we had to focus on fixing our mistakes first.”
After a hard-fought 21-6 win over Quitman at Ray Stadium last year, Weems will not look over the Panthers this week. While Wildcats fans may have their sights set on some of the year's more high-profile match ups coming up, Weems has stressed to his team to concentrate one game at a time each week.
“Quitman is the most important thing we got right now,” Weems said. “None of us even know if we'll be around to play the next game a couple of weeks from now. Honestly, there is not a bigger game. We aren't practicing for Brandon this week, we are practicing for Quitman. When we get to them, that's going to be a huge game, but it ain't today.
“Heck, I might not even be around then. I might have a heart attack. You just can't deal with stuff that is out of your control. That's just the way I approach things.”
Bynum said he is expecting a playoff atmosphere tonight as the Panthers look to bounce back and earn their first win of the season.
“I've told the guys all week, the only way I'm going to get over that one is Friday night when that ball is kicked off,” Quitman head coach Steven Bynum said.
“Last week, it was a sellout crowd. The stadium was jammed pack, and we've got two sets of bleachers in the end zone now where we put the band so that we can fit all the fans in the stands. The atmosphere was great last week, and we are expecting it to be even better this week.”