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Meridian still in hunt for playoffs

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
Oct. 25, 2002
The excitement needs to come back to the Meridian High Wildcats tonight when they take on the Petal Panthers here at Ray Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
First-year head coach Ed Stanley says his team has to play with passion and intensity, something they have lacked in a 2-and-a-half game stretch following a close, but bitter loss to top-ranked Wayne County (13-5) at Ray Stadium on Sept. 28.
Meridian found some spunk in the second half at Natchez rallying for a 20-12 win. The victory puts the Wildcats at 2-6 on the season and was their first in Region 2-5A action.
Stanley said the playoffs are still a possibility for the Wildcats.
Petal is one of the region's most improved teams. The Panthers are 3-5 this year after suffering through an 0-10 mark last year. Meridian beat Petal 48-7 last year in Petal.
The Wildcats and Panthers are currently tied for fifth in the region at 1-3. Petal lost to Brandon 27-0 last week after committing four turnovers.
Petal is led by running backs Gabe Fairman and Raymond McGill. Both backs have scored five touchdowns. Petal is averaging 16.3 points per game and the Panthers beat Hancock earlier this year.
Petal, however, has allowed 194 points compared to Meridian's 146. Meridian has also played a schedule that includes 7-1 Starkville and a win over Tupelo.
Meridian is still searching for a consistent offense. The lack of scoring has been a problem all season. The best weapon has been kicker Andrew Gambrell who has made five field goals this season including 35- and 26-yarders at Natchez last week.
Quarterback Ken Mitts is coming one of his best games of the year. He was 11-of-19 for 118 yards against Natchez. For the year, he is 64-of-143 for 799 yards and four TDs.
Receiver D.J. Lloyd caught his third TD pass of the season from Mitts and leads the Wildcats in receiving yardage. Keith Ivy has the most receptions.