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Meridian faces tough road contest against Wayne County

By By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Sept. 27, 2001
The schedule maker has been unkind to the Meridian Wildcat football team this season.
Three of the first four games were against teams ranked in the top seven of the state Associated Press' prep football poll.
Meridian Head Coach Bill Sartin said the rugged pre-region slate was his doing. But starting off Region 2-5A play at Wayne County was not.
The Wildcats' fortunes aren't much better for next week when No. 1 ranked Brandon comes to town. But before that clash, Meridian must deal with Wayne County which is enjoying its second season of football resurgence.
The War Eagles are off to a strong 3-1 start following last week's 29-8 dismantling of Pascagoula. The only loss was a week-three decision against rival Laurel 29-21.
Getting a roar from his team is what Sartin hopes to see in Waynesboro on Friday. The law was laid down this week in practice following last Friday's dismal 33-0 loss to sixth ranked Tupelo at Ray Stadium.
Wayne County, however, will provide another stiff test in the region opener for both teams. The War Eagles also own wins over Warren Central (15-10) and Mendenhall (24-23 in OT).
The War Eagles have used a powerful running game led by quarterback Akeem Lofton and tailback John McLaughin.
McLaughin has averaged 108 yards rushing per game which includes 116 yards last week against Pascagoula. Lofton has averaged 75 yards a game on the ground and 40 through the air.
Stephano Gandy and Jonathan McLaurin are two other big play War Eagles. McLaurin had a 95-yard kickoff return against Laurel.
Leading the War Eagle defense is senior defensive tackle Willie Evans (6-3, 260) and linebacker Brodie Jones (5-9, 215).
Meridian will try and counter with a ground-based attack led by wingback Cardae Campbell, fullback David Fielder and tailback Fred Patton.
Campbell continues to lead the club in rushing with 280 yards on 39 carries and three TDs. Patton has 151 on 37 carries while Fielder has 120 on 31.
The passing game, however, has been the Wildcats' undoing. Tupelo broke open last week's game on a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown. The pick was one of four Meridian has suffered in its last two games.
The Wildcat defense is led by senior linebacker C.C. Finley. He was one of the Wildcats singled out by Sartin for his play against Tupelo.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. He can be reached at 693-1551 or by e-mail at j.byrd@the