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Meridian rallies to 20-12 win

By By Patrick Jones/special to The Star
October 19, 2002
NATCHEZ Behind the arm of quarterback Ken Mitts and leg of kicker Andrew Gambrell, the Meridian Wildcats erased a five-point halftime deficit to defeat the Natchez High Bulldogs 20-12 at Tom F. Williams Memorial Stadium.
The win got the Wildcats, who for years was one of the best teams in the state, out of the cellar in Region 3-5A as they improved to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in region play.
The Bulldogs, who had a chance to pick up their first win of the season, dropped to 0-8 overall and 0-4 in region play with a road trip to No. 6 Oak Grove looming next Friday.
Meridian trailed Natchez 12-7 at halftime, but the Wildcats took the lead for good when Mitts connected with D. J. Lloyd on a 27-yard touchdown pass. Gambrell's extra point gave the visiting team a 14-12 lead.
Mitts finished 11-for-19 for 118 yards and one interception. He was also sacked four times. Gambrell then added field goals of 35 and 26 yards to give Meridian the 20-12 lead.
Meridian went to the run to start the game, going 54 yards in eight plays, with the scoring drive capped by a 1-yard run on 4th and goal from the Bulldogs' 1-yard line with 5:47 to go in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Natchez cut into the lead on a 16-yard pass from quarterback Leon Stewart to Richard Blanton. The extra point was no good and Meridian held a 7-6 lead.
The Bulldogs then took a 12-7 lead with 58 seconds to go until halftime when Stewart found Jeremiah Green for an 18-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion fell a couple of inches short.
Stewart was 10-for-13 for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. "Give Natchez a lot of credit. They've got a lot of great athletes," Stanley said. "We're just happy to come away with a win.
Anthony Strauder then recovered a Meridian fumble at the Wildcats' 14-yard line with eight seconds left until the break.
After a nine-yard run by Brian Williams, Denson elected to go for a field goal that would have given the Bulldogs an 8-point halftime lead. Instead, Williams' 22-yard attempt was just off the mark.
Another thing that preserved the win for Meridian was an adjustment defensive coordinator Malcom Jones made at halftime, which was to put more pressure on Stewart.
The strategy worked, as Stewart was just 4-for-12 for just 25 yards in the second half.