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Meridian-Laurel rivalry gets new start

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Aug. 31, 2001
While some remember the Meridian-Laurel rivalry as part of a golden era in the long history of Mississippi High School football, the players in tonight's game see it as the start of something new.
Wildcats head coach Bill Sartin says his 2001 team is ready to play as they kick the season off at 7:30 tonight at Ray Stadium.
"It's been a long August, and we are tired of hitting on each other," Sartin said. "We are ready to play a game, and we are looking forward to playing against Laurel.
"We've been talking about it with our kids. They understand that this used to be a big rivalry for Meridian, but these kids haven't played against Laurel before. It's going to be new for them. I'm glad we are going to be playing Laurel every year now, and I'm sure this is going to become a great rivalry once again."
Both schools are coming off outstanding seasons. Meridian finished 9-3 and made it to the State 5A playoffs. Laurel finished 13-1, with its only loss coming in the South State 4A championship game against McComb.
"They are big and quick," said Sartin. "We are going to find out a lot about our team tonight.
"We have some guys who have the potential to be gamebreakers. We have a lot of speed, more speed than I've had in the past. We have young guys who have to step up and prove themselves. Now it is their turn."
John Hayes Compton will be the starting quarterback for the Wildcats.
"He has earned the right to be there and I'm sure he will play a great game," Sartin said. "He played backup for two years, and now it is his turn."
Linebacker Lyndell Naylor will miss the game with an injury.
Other games
Other local teams will be playing as well. West Lauderdale hosts Florence, Northeast Lauderdale visits Heidelberg, Southeast Lauderdale is at Coffeeville, Lamar visits Wayne Academy, and Clarkdale hosts Edinburg.
In other area games of interest, Neshoba Central visits Quitman, Union visits Enterprise, Newton County visits Forest, Kemper Academy is at Calhoun, and Kemper High School is at Nanih Waiya.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.