Starkville blanks Cats
FULL FORCE – Meridian's Keith Ivy tries to shake off a Starkville defender after a pass reception for a big gain. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
September 7, 2002
When two young football teams get together this early in the season, fans can expect a mistake-filled contest. Those in attendance at Ray Stadium Friday night got one.
At halftime, the stadium's field was named in honor of the late Meridian High administrator Charles A. Armstrong. The ceremony was about the only thing that went off without a hitch.
As for the action on the field, sixth ranked and defending 5A State Champion Starkville got out of town with a 13-0 win. In between, there were nine turnovers five by Meridian, 19 penalties and several bizarre calls and other strange things.
Starkville got the better of the mistakes made my Meridian than vice versa. The Yellow Jackets move to 2-0 on the season, while the Wildcats slip to 0-2.
First-year Starkville head coach Ronnie Cuevas sounded post-game like the coach who lost.
Meridian head coach Ed Stanley was more upbeat about his team afterwards.
Unfortunately, the Wildcat defense did not get credited for a play that may have turned the contest around. Down 13-0, with three minutes left in the third quarter, Starkville quarterback Will Snead went back to pass on a third-and-36 at his own 13.
Meridian linebacker Lamarace Tucker made a straight bee-line to the quarterback and sacked him hard, causing a fumble. Charles Kirk recovered at the Starkville 3.
The play, however, was ruled an incomplete pass.
The call almost didn't matter because on the subsequent punt, Meridian's Kevin Moore weaved his way 57 yards for an apparent touchdown. But that score was taken away, too, as Meridian was called for a block in the back at the Starkville 23.
A third-down sack resulting in a loss of eight yards, forced a Wildcat punt. The topsy-turvy nature of the game would continue into the fourth quarter.
Starkville's Xavier Collins appeared on his way to a big gainer only to be stripped from behind by Tucker. It was Starkville's fourth lost fumble of the game.
Three plays later, Meridian faced a third-and-inches. Quarius Hodges was then dropped for a two-yard loss. On the punt, Starkville was called for roughing, resulting in a new set of downs for the Wildcats.
Meridian quarterback Ken Mitts then hit Nate Hughes on passes of 18 and 17 yards moving the ball to the Starkville 23. On first down, Mitts had a pass tipped and fall into the arms of guard William Ledbetter. Thinking he was an ineligible receiver, Ledbetter threw the ball down. The officials ruled it a fumble.
Meridian would have one final chance with three minutes left. Mitts completed three straight 11-yard gainers to get the Wildcats to the Starkville 33.
But an offensive pass interference backed the team up. Then with 1:34 left, Starkville's Bobby Smith intercepted Mitts. Smith would return it 70 yards for another apparent score, but it too, was called back for a block in the back.
The scores that did count came in the first half. A tipped pass interception on the game's first play set up Starkville at the Meridian 33.
Four plays later, Charles Jordan slashed in from the seven for the touchdown. No flags. Stephen Bost's kick made it 7-0 with 10:30 left in the quarter.
Late in the second quarter, Meridian's deep snap woes reared its head again. Punter Chris Kitchens was dropped for a 10-yard loss at the Wildcat 18.
Starkville was in the endzone in two plays. The score came on a 14-yard pass from Sneed to Collier with 1:06 left in the half. Bost's kick was blocked leaving the score at 13-0.
On Meridian's ensuing possession, Mitts completed four straight passes for 65 yards getting the ball to the Starkville 15. Mitts tried to stop the clock with a quick slam.
Instead, he drew a delay of game because the officials said the ball was not set. The penalty was called, the clock was started, and Meridian was out of time.
For the game, Mitts was 14-of-26 for 176 yards and four interceptions. Keith Ivy caught four passes for 42 yards, while D.J. Loyd caught three for 50.
Starkville was paced by Collier and Jordan. The pair combined for 184 yards with Collier getting 94 while Jordan had 90 off 16 carries. As a team, the Yellow Jackets had 183 yards rushing and 63 passing.
Sneed was 3-of-8 for 30 yards and one TD while Barry Doss was 2-of-5 for 33.