Wildcats take on winless Natchez
By By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Oct. 18, 2001
When things are going bad, bad luck seems to follow. That's the way it has been for the Meridian Wildcats this season.
The Wildcats fell to 1-6 following a 17-0 loss to Hancock last week. The loss was also the Wildcats' third straight in Region 2-5A action.
Two weeks ago, Meridian took the state's top-ranked team down to the wire only to see a potential game-winning field goal get waved off because Brandon had too many men on the field. Brandon escaped Ray Stadium with a 16-14 win.
On Friday, Meridian will hope to vent its frustrations on winless Natchez in another region contest at Ray Stadium. It's also homecoming. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats can still make the 5A playoffs if they can begin a late-season rally with four straight wins. Natchez, 0-6, represents a good starting point.
Meridian Head Coach Bill Sartin says the Wildcats need an attitude adjustment.
"We just have to get our minds on playing football. We lost a game we should've won down in Hancock. We lost seven fumbles and four of them were inside Hancock's 20," Sartin said.
"We also missed a field goal. We had all those chances but didn't score. It's a lack of maturity. We need to put the ball in the endzone when it's that deep in our opponent's end," Sartin said.
The missed opportunities would later pile up on the defense. After holding Hancock scoreless in the first half, the Wildcats gave up 17 points in the second.
"You can't let the offense's mistakes effect your game. We have to keep playing hard," Sartin added.
"This has been a tough team to read. You don't quite know when they are ready to play or not. It's like if things go well, they are okay.
"But that's not good enough. We need an attitude where if something bad happens, we won't hang our heads and decide we're tired of playing," he said.
Natchez is coming off a 27-0 loss to Wayne County last week in Natchez. The week before, the Bulldogs played a competitive game in a 37-21 loss to Hattiesburg.
The club has a standout running back in Brian Williams who rushed for 198 yards off 28 carries in the Hattiesburg game. Quarterback Leon Stewart is passing threat with his top target being Jeremiah Green.
"Natchez always seems to have good athletes and they will have another big team," Sartin said.
Meridian will counter with a ground game that produced nearly 200 yards in rushing for the second straight game. Sophomore tailback Cardae Campbell rushed for 96 yards on 17 attempts last week. He now has nearly 600 yards rushing and has scored five touchdowns.
Fullback Fred Patton adds 314 yards off 75 carries and one score.
Quarterback Ken Mitts has completed 13-of-45 passes for 154 yards. Pierre Henderson is the top receiver but Dante Baker made three receptions for 25 yards in the Hancock game.
The Wildcat defense is paced by senior middle linebacker C.C. Finley and outside backers Quarious Hodges and Lyndale Nailor. Hodges had 11 tackles against Hancock and was tabbed as the team's player of the week.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. He can be reached at 693-1551, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.