The Meridian High Wildcats sure know how to make a home opener memorable, don’t they? If the start wasn’t enough, or the bizarre ending to the first half, MHS made sure to stage a dramatic fourth-quarter rally that would leave fans talking for years to come. Here are a few extra thoughts from the thriller:
1. A young team grew up in leaps and bounds Friday night. After most went right in the season opener at Clinton, things were infinitely more difficult at Ray Stadium on Friday. First there was the interception on the first play of the game to give Wayne County a lead just eight seconds into the game. Then game the third quarter where nothing went right. But MHS kept its composure, stayed focus and mounted the comeback, scoring three times in the final nine minutes, twice in the final 1:37.
2. The Wildcats may be undersized on defense, and Wayne County took advantage of that in the third quarter. But Meridian High has speed and knows how to not only get to the football, but how to get the football. After forcing Clinton to seven turnovers in the opener, the Wildcats pressured Wayne County into five – all fumbles – on Friday. Those were big as the final two led to Meridian’s final two scores.
3. Prior to the season, MHS coach Larry Weems said in addition to seniors Jibril Cox and Shanton Murphy, freshman Jmar Smith was the most impressive of the four underclassmen battling at quarterback. And after getting his feet wet against the Arrows, Smith was thrown into the fire against Wayne County when Cox limped off early in the fourth. The youngster, who started for the MHS baseball team this past season, promptly completed a pass on second-and-long and then ran for a first down on third-and-short. Two plays later he threw a perfect pass just over the War Eagles defensive back for a 33-yard touchdown to Tyler Henderson. It was quite a start to Smith’s career.
4. Outside of maybe Madison Central, is there undoubtedly no better 0-2 team in the state than Wayne County? While the War Eagles are off to quite the un-Wayne County like 0-2 start, they have played Jackson Clarion-Ledger Super 10 teams Petal and Meridian, losing by a combined 10 points (21-14 to Petal and then 24-21 to MHS). At the end of the year, the War Eagles will be a Class 5A contender, just like always.
And here is the box score from the 2011 home opener at Ray Stadium:
MERIDIAN 24, WAYNE COUNTY 21
Wayne County 7 0 7 7 — 21
Meridian 0 7 0 17 — 24
WC — La Darien Sims 22 interception return (Tyler Franklin kick).
MHS — Richard McQuarly 6 pass from Jibril Cox (Pieter Both kick).
WC — Greg Miller 1 run (Franklin kick).
WC — Shondricco Jones 1 run (Franklin kick).
MHS — Tyler Henderon 33 pass from Jmar Smith (Both kick).
MHS — McQuarly 10 run (Both kick).
MHS — Both 25 field goal.
First downs 18 16
Rushes-yards 58-215 43-190
Passing 87 115
Comp-Att-Int 4-8-0 9-24-2
Total Yards 302 305
Fumbles-Lost 6-5 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-35 8-60
RUSHING—Wayne County, Chuck Lacey 21-100, Jones 18-71, Miller 10-37, Farekus Walker 8-6, Randy Pettus 1-1. Meridian, Cox 26-114, McQuarly 13-65, Smith 1-6, Emmanuel Grant 2-4, Jalen Heath 1-1.
PASSING—Wayne County, Lacey 4-8-0 87. Meridian, Cox 7-19-2 74, Smith 2-5-0 41.
RECEIVING—Wayne County, Tyler Rhodes 2-58, Dejarvis Chambers 2-29. Meridian, Isaac Johnson 5-54, Henderson 2-39, Shelton Cole 1-16, McQuarly 1-6.