Meridian High begins stretch run on the road
POWERFUL RUNNER Meridian High School's Cordae Campbell (20), who rushed for 214 yards last week, carries the ball up field at Ray Stadium against Brandon in the team's 24-14 win. The Wildcats can earn a playoff berth with a win against Hancock tonight on the road. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Oct. 31, 2003
Meridian High School knew it was coming. It was written plain as day on the Wildcats' schedule. There was nothing the team could do about but get ready and load the bus.
The Wildcats (5-4, 3-2 Division 3-5A) will hit the road for their last two games of the season. The back-to-back road games, starting tonight with a game against Hancock (4-5, 1-4 Division 3-5A), is the back end of four-out-of-five away games for the team.
It may not be the best of circumstances for a team one win away from sealing a playoff berth, but in the final two weeks, the tale of the road is old news for this squad.
While trips to Picayune (on Oct. 10) and Oak Grove (on Oct. 17) may have prepared the Wildcats for their stretch run, those games didn't end as planed. Meridian High lost to Picayune 17-14 in overtime, and Oak Grove edged out the Wildcats 28-21 in dramatic fashion with Meridian on the OGHS 1-yard line as time expired.
If Meridian High is able to secure a spot in the postseason, the team will open the playoffs on the road against a team from Division 4-5A.
Stanley said it is important for his team to win a road game before the season closes out. The Wildcats have only won one game on the road, that being against 4-5A's St. Martin on Sept. 19.
Hancock has already been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs entering tonight's contest, which is set to kick off at 7:30.
But the Hawks will have an opportunity to impact the playoff picture in the final two games.
Along with the Wildcats tonight, Hancock closes the season against Hattiesburg, which could still make the playoffs with two wins and a pair of losses by Meridian or Northwest Rankin.
Hawks head coach Rocky Gaudin said his team is not concerned about its role as potential spoilers.
Hancock has been using a different type of offense than Meridian High saw last year.
Though the Hawks have gone to the air more often on offense this season, Stanley said he expects a heavy dose of the running game when his team meets Gaudin's.
Meridian High will see more of the same from Hancock's defensive alignment.
Because of the Wildcats' commitment to the run and only modest success in the passing game, teams have been able to put more defenders in the middle of the field in hopes of containing the squad's plethora of running backs.
One thing the Wildcats will need to do differently in this game, as opposed to last week, is get off to a good start.
Meridian High gained only 89 yards in the opening half against Brandon last week, but the Wildcats tallied 198 yards over the last two quarters in a 24-14 win.
The Wildcats overcame the rough start by switching to a double tight end set, getting a big punt return from Thomas McCoy and the offensive line opened up holes for senior running back Cordae Campbell to run for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.
Meridian High was able to adjust at home to capture a win, but Stanley said his team cannot wait until the third quarter to win the game tonight.