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No. 1 War Eagles hold on to down Meridian, 13-5

By Staff
SACKED – Meridian High School's Ken Mitts (11) is tackled for a loss by Wayne County's Deshawn Smith. Wayne County beat Meridian 13-5. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Dale McKee/EMG sports writer
September 28, 2002
When you're the state's No. 1-ranked team, you definitely get the other team's best shot.
The Wayne County War Eagles found that out Friday night as the homestanding Meridian Wildcats battled the visitors for four quarters. When the dust settled, the War Eagles had won their district opener 13-5.
It was a defensive game with field position being critical.
Wayne County scored first midway through the second period when Akeem Lofton bulled three yards for a score.
The touchdown climaxed a 6-play 60-yard drive, the key play being a 44-yard pass from Lofton to Charles McCall. The conversion by Breck Mills was good, and the War Eagles led 7-0 with 4:44 to play in the opening half.
Meridian only threatened once in the opening half thanks in part to a 23-yard pass from Anthony Brown to Anouk Jackson. The drive stalled, and Meridian was forced to punt.
Wayne's only other threat of the first period was a time-consuming 14-play drive that started at their own 12 yard line and ended at the Wildcats' 19. J.J. Taylor rushed six times in the drive for 58 yards.
Wayne dominated the first half stats rushing for 132 yards and passing for 52 more yards. The Wildcats were limited to 26 yards total offense.
The Wildcats finally dented the scoreboard with less than three minutes to play in the third period when E. J. Hampton broke through for Meridian and blocked a Shane Barnett punt, and the Wildcats were awarded a safety.
Meridian then took the free kick and moved to the Wayne County 36-yard line . Then Meridian' s head man had a tough call. Facing a fourth and two, the Wildcats went for it. All night the Wildcats toyed with the War Eagles for field position, and Stanley rolled the dice. "It was not an easy call, but we felt like we would be back to square one if we didn't take a chance.
When you're the number one team, you must respond, and the War Eagles did. They marched 62 yards in 11 plays with Taylor going the final 15 yards. Taylor was playing for injured Jerrod Sims. Taylor ended the game the leading rusher with 96 yards on 17 plays.
The Wildcats then stormed back and marched 55 yards in seven plays to score on a 26-yard field goal by Andrew Gambrell. The drive was executed through the air as quarterback Ken Mitts hit on three passes for 46 yards.
D.J. Lloyd caught two of the passes from Mitts.
Stanley told his team after the game to keep their heads up and that they were a better team than they were after last week's win over Tupelo. "You just played the number one team in Mississippi, and you stood toe to toe with them for four quarters. You played great," stated Stanley.
This was Wayne County's third straight win over the Wildcats, but Boyles said, " If you look at the scores, it is always close."
Kevin Johnson had an interception for Wayne in the final
minutes to seal the win.
Wayne County, 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the district, goes on the road again next week to Hancock. Meridian,1-4 overall and 0-1 in the district, plays Brandon. The Bulldogs blanked Natchez 28-0 last night.