Meridian High School has hired its second head football coach in five months.
The Meridian Public School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to approve John Douglass as the Wildcats’ football coach in a special-called meeting Thursday afternoon.
Douglass graduated from Meridian High School in 1987 and was an offensive lineman on the 1985 Meridian state championship football team. He served as an assistant coach at his alma mater for the 1993 and ’94 seasons.
“I’m from this community; my parents still live here, my wife’s parents are still in Lauderdale County, so getting back over here seemed like a really natural move,” Douglass said. “Obviously, the opportunity to coach at Meridian was tremendous. We’re very excited.”
Douglass replaces Martez Edwards, who was terminated Monday after a nearly two-month-long dispute sparked after an inappropriate photo of Edwards surfaced on social media. Edwards had been on administrative leave with pay since May 6.
Douglass coached Northeast Lauderdale High School to a 7-5 record and an appearance in the second round of the MHSAA Class 4A playoffs last season, his first at the school.
With the start of the season just 64 days away, Douglass said his priority right now is facilitating a smooth transition between himself and his new players and coaches.
“I know some of the guys and coaches are at Hinds County today at a 7-on-7 (camp), but our plan is to get together on Sunday as a staff and start hammering down exactly what direction, when and how, and the nuts and bolts of what we’re going to do,” Douglass said. “We’re going to hit it running pretty quickly.”
Douglass becomes the third person to hold the title of Meridian head football coach in just three seasons after the 2015 departure of Larry Weems, who coached at Meridian for 10 seasons. Calvin Hampton resigned from the position last November after guiding the Wildcats to a 4-7 record in 2018, and Edwards was hired as his successor on Jan 28. Edwards held the position for 140 days.
With Douglass’ hire, Meridian hopes to regain stability and reassert itself as a Class 6A power. The Wildcats boast three state titles and 31 playoff appearances and 31 winning seasons.
Douglass said he intends to restore his alma mater to its former glory.
“The most important thing to me, from a player standpoint and an assistant coach standpoint, is we’re going to be loyal to the program and loyal to Meridian High School, first and foremost,” Douglass said. “I think if we’re all together on the same page — it’s not going to happen overnight — we just have to start taking those steps. And each and every day, each and every week, you take another step and you try to build on what you’ve done, and you try to learn from your mistakes and improve. That’s how we’re going to approach it.”
Douglass has accumulated more than a decade's worth of experience as a head coach. He’s held leading positions at Quitman and George County high schools. At Quitman, he was named Region 5-4A’s coach of the year, and he led the Panthers to four consecutive playoff appearances during his six-year tenure. He's also served as offensive line coach at Delta State University.
“John will bring instant connections to our community,” Meridian High School athletic director Chuck Butler said. “He’s been here, he grew up here, he played football here. He has a lot of ties to a lot of our old football group. Obviously, he’s a good football coach, on that side of it, as well. We’re tickled to death to be able to, at this late of a date, to get someone of John’s stature and quality as a coach on board at Meridian High School.”
Meridian and Douglass open the 2019 season at Northeast Lauderdale on Aug. 23. Douglass said his hire has not impacted the status of the game.
“We have already signed a contract… That’s going to be a really big opportunity for Northeast Lauderdale, from a financial standpoint,” Douglass said. “We scheduled the game because we expected a really big gate. So, that’s something that they need — that program needs that. I’ll probably have some funny feelings going into the game standing on that other side, but it is what it is. We’ll go coach and play, and whatever happens, I’m going to love those kids for the sacrifices and commitments they made to me over the last 15, 16 months.”