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Meridian has point to prove against Brandon

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
Oct. 4, 2002
Last year, Meridian saw a 39-yard field goal by Andrew Gambrell go through the uprights in what should have gave the Wildcats a 17-16 win over then No. 1 ranked Brandon High at Ray Stadium.
But an illegal substitution flag, against Brandon no less, wiped off the field goal. Gambrell got another shot from 34 yards. This time, however, Brandon blocked the kick at the line preserving the 16-14 victory.
Now, a year later, Meridian will seek payback. Even with a new coach in Ed Stanley and a revamped team, the Brandon game remains a sore spot for the Wildcats.
"The kids having been talking about that last second field goal Andrew made and then to see it called back because a penalty on Brandon," Stanley said.
Meridian will seek its revenge tonight at 7:30 p.m. when they visit Brandon for the club's second Region 2-5A contest. The Wildcats will bring a 1-4 record to Brandon but that hasn't affected their confidence. Meridian is coming off a 13-5 loss to top-ranked and unbeaten Wayne County last week.
"We know physically, we're getting better with each game," Stanley said. "We feel we match up well with Brandon."
Brandon enters the region contest with a 4-1 record. The Bulldogs opened Region 2-5A play last week with a 28-0 win over Natchez. The lone loss for Brandon was to Northwest Rankin in week four.
"They have a hard-nosed looking team," Stanley said. "They have a pretty balanced offense and can spread it out."
What Brandon does not have is consensus Mississippi High School Player of the Year in Jerious Norwood and 300-pound tackle Brad Burch. Both are now at Mississippi State.
"There is no replacement for a Jerious Norwood," Stanley said. "But they do have a real strong back in (Bobby) Weakley. They also have an experienced quarterback. He operates the team well and is a different style of quarterback than what we've seen in the last two weeks."
Weakley has scored five touchdowns to lead Brandon's offense. Kyle Sephton is the Bulldog quarterback. The top targets are Jeremy Horton and Ken Love. Horton has four touchdowns and Love has caught three TD passes.
Meridian will hope to counter with a defensive unit that has held three current Top 10 teams to under 13 points each. Wayne County, which was averaging nearly 35 points a game, was held to just two touchdowns.
War Eagles head coach Marcus Boyles left Ray Stadium impressed by the Wildcats.
"This is a typical Meridian team. They've got athletes all over the field," said Boyles post-game. "We beat a good football team. People look at their record, but I challenge anybody to come over here and beat them."
The Wildcats can unleash athletes like Lamarace Tucker, a 210-pound linebacker, along with E.J. Hampton who blocked a punt giving the Wildcats a safety in the Wayne County game. Ryan Kimbrough is a strong end who has a defensive touchdown this season from the Louisville game.
On offense, tackle Brian Leggett had an exceptional game blocking with double-digit pancakes.
Quarterback Ken Mitts returned to the line-up after sitting out consecutive halves over two games. He led the Wildcats to a 26-yard field goal by Gambrell. For the season, Mitts is 33-of-84 for 520 yards and three touchdowns.
The top Wildcat receivers are D.J. Loyd, Courtney Lynch and J.B. Byrd.