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franklin county times

Meridian enjoys home game with 17-3 victory

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Oct. 9, 2004
After a first half Meridian High School's football team would rather forget, the No. 5-ranked Wildcats tallied 14 second-half points to defeat the No. 9 Picayune Maroon Tide 17-3 Friday night at Ray Stadium.
The Wildcats improved to 5-0-1 overall and 3-0 in District 3-5A play, as they won their homecoming game. Picayune fell to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in 3-5A.
"I was very disappointed in our first-half performance," said Meridian High head coach Ed Stanley. "We made some adjustments on both sides of the ball that helped us, and we played much better in the second half. We played more like ourselves in the second half."
Wildcats wide receiver A.J. Brown broke a 3-3 tie in the third quarter, scoring on a 65-yard touchdown reception.
Brown caught a pass from quarterback Justin Baylor on Picayune's 30-yard line as a Maroon Tide defensive back fell to the ground. The senior wideout raced into the end zone untouched to give the Wildcats a 10-3 lead with 2:39 left in the third quarter.
"I was thinking nothing but end zone," Brown said. "After the touchdown, everything just started going our way."
The big passing play may have swung things Meridian High's way late in the game, but it was the Wildcats defense that delivered the homecoming win.
Meridian High limited Picayune to 99 offensive yards and only five first downs. The Maroon Tide was held to just 12 yards in the second half.
"We knew we had to step up on defense because they are a good team. It was a dogfight," said Wildcats linebacker Rashad Byrd, who recorded seven tackles. "We kind of struggled in the first half, and we knew we had to step it up in the second half. We came out and got the job done."
The Wildcats defense set up the team's final touchdown with 6:57 left in the game.
Meridian High linebacker Brodrick Coleman broke into Picayune's backfield as the quarterback fumbled the snap and recovered the ball on the Maroon Tide's 7-yard line.
Wildcats running back Derrick Davis punched the ball into the end zone seven seconds later to give his team a 14-point lead.
"That was the turning point," said Coleman, who recorded six tackles. "I knew the offense was going to score. We went through the roof, and there was no stopping us after that."
Davis carried most of the offensive load for the Wildcats, after fellow running back Cordera Eason aggravated his injured right ankle early in the second quarter. Eason gained 42 yards on 12 carries for the game.
Davis carried the ball 35 times for 203 yards. It was the junior's third 200-yard rushing performance of the season, as he broke the 1,000-yard mark for the year.
"My partner in crime went down but I had his back just like he would have mine," Davis said.
Neither team's offense was able to penetrate the opposition's defense in the opening 24 minutes, as the kickers decided the halftime score.
Picayune kicker Scott Hillery booted a 32-yard field goal 3 1/2 minutes into the game to cap the Maroon Tide's opening drive.
Picayune drove the ball down to Meridian High's 10-yard line after a 35-yard kick-off return, but the Wildcats defense pushed the Maroon Tide back to the 15-yard line before the field goal.
"That was really important because it gave us a boost of confidence," Byrd said of stopping Picayune in the red zone. "We knew we could stop them after that."
Meridian High kicker Phillip Sullivan connected on his second field goal of the year from 25 yards out with 6:18 left in the second half.
Sullivan's kick capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive that brought the Wildcats down to the Tide's 9-yard line.
"That was very, very big for us," Stanley said of Sullivan's field goal. "It gave us confidence. It made the score 3-3 instead of 3-0, and there is a big difference in the mindset coming into halftime tied instead of down by three."
Meridian High continues the season against Oak Grove at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ray Stadium.

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