John Douglass, center, was introduced as Meridian High School’s head football coach Monday afternoon at Meridian High School. Douglass is joined by Meridian principal Victor Hubbard, left, and Meridian athletic director Chuck Butler.

New Meridian head football coach John Douglass met with his nascent coaching staff Sunday, but neither play-calling schemes or technical aspects of the game were mentioned during the afternoon meeting.

Hired just 64 days from the start of Meridian’s 2019 season opener, Douglass instead consulted with his assistants on how to best restore player and fan interest in a reeling football program.

“The No. 1 topic was trying to reach out to all of the players and be sure that by the end of this week, and hopefully by (Tuesday), that they’re all trickling back in,” Douglass said.

Douglass was formally introduced Monday afternoon as Meridian’s head football coach at a press conference in the high school’s library. The hire, for now, appears to end a tumultuous two-month period that culminated last week with the termination of former Meridian head coach Martez Edwards, who held the position for 140 days.

“Today was Day 1,” Douglass said. “(The players) have been working, and that’s great, but we need to get them all back as fast as possible. That was the gist of what we discussed (Sunday). We did discuss some other things, as far as duties and responsibilities around the field house, but it was really an opportunity to be sure that we could all put eyes on a face and shake hands and get to know each other a little bit.”

Douglass said he’s in the process of contacting potential assistant coaches, and he’s working with Meridian athletic director Chuck Butler to identify qualified candidates. 

“We’re reaching out,” he said. “Coach (Chuck) Butler and I are talking to different coaches. We do have a couple of slots that we can do, and as we get some of those people in, we will start finalizing what exactly everybody is going to be doing.”

In addition to his late start, Douglass will also be challenged with replacing 27 seniors from last year’s roster. The Wildcats won just four games in 2018 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons. Meridian averaged just 18 points per contest last year.

In his first and only season at Northeast Lauderdale, Douglass guided the Trojans to a 7-5 record and second-round playoff appearance behind a 27 points-per-game average in 2018. Douglass said while he doesn’t plan to reinvent his offensive philosophy, it will differ a bit from what he ran at Northeast Lauderdale. 

“It’ll definitely be tailored to what we feel like as a staff are our strong suits,” Douglass said. “It’s not going to vary too far. A couple of things that we can do, and done in the past that we didn’t do last year — different personnel groupings and things like that to maximize the athletes who are on the field. We do want to tailor our play selection and our personnel packages to be sure the best athletes are on the field, and we’re trying to maximize their strengths.”

While Monday signaled the beginning of the Douglass era at Meridian, the 1987 Meridian graduate and member of the 1985 Wildcats’ football team said he isn’t too concerned about celebrating the moment. Instead, he and his assistants are looking for ways to energize the program in ways that will once again make donning Wildcat blue and white a source of pride among the student body.

“There are plenty of kids on the roster, and we want to increase that number, and that’s going to be a goal of ours in Year 1 — to increase participation at the middle school level and then at the high school level, as well,” Douglass said. “I guarantee you there are probably, 10,15, and even more than that, kids walking these hallways who can help us win football games. We need to be sure we’re doing everything we can to do that, and that’s going to be a big push of ours during this first year.”

Meridian opens the 2019 season Aug. 23 at Northeast Lauderdale.

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