Wildcats grab round one victory
By By Tony Krausz/Assistant sports editor
November 15, 2003
ST. MARTIN Meridian High School's defense saved its two biggest plays in the Wildcats' 17-7 win over St. Martin for the end in Friday night's Class 5A first-round playoff game.
The Wildcats (8-4) forced four turnovers against the Yellowjackets at Joe F. Barlow Stadium; with the two biggest fumble recoveries coming in the contest's closing minutes.
With Meridian nursing its 10-point lead, St. Martin drove to the Wildcats' 15-yard line, but linebacker Brodrick Coleman sacked Yellowjackets' quarterback Tarkan Weston forcing the ball loose.
Meridian defensive back Cale Jones scooped up the loose ball with 1:23 left in the game to keep the two-score lead intact.
Wildcats defensive lineman Jeremy Campbell picked up the team's final fumble, recovering with 16 ticks left, after Brandon Davis sacked Weston again at the Yellowjackets' 15-yard line to seal the win. Weston was playing in place of St. Martin starting quarterback T.J. Windham, who left the game with an injury in the second quarter.
The Wildcats will play their first home game in four weeks thanks to the win, when they meet Oak Grove at Ray Stadium in the second round next Friday.
Wildcats senior running back Cordae Campbell led the team's offensive charge, gaining 146 of Meridian's 256 offensive yards in the contest.
The 193-pound back scored on a 29-yard run and he produced long runs of 33 and 19 yards in the win, while carrying the ball 35 times.
As impressive as Campbell's running was for Meridian, the Wildcats defense proved to be just has strong.
Meridian held St. Martin to 188 yards on offense, with the Yellowjackets gaining 70 rushing yards and 118 passing yards in the loss.
Meridian gave St. Martin a few different looks to start the game from the two squads' first meeting on Sept. 19, but the visiting team got similar results. The Wildcats won the first meeting 38-14.
The Wildcats used one-back sets and sent players in motion on the first three plays to varying success.
The Yellowjackets were called offsides on the first play of the game, and Wildcats quarterback Justin Baylor, who rushed for 22 yards on six carries, broke loose for a 24-yard run on the second play of the contest.
On the third play, Meridian broke away from its usual mode of operation, launching a pass to running back Cordera Eason. The pass fell incomplete, but St. Martin was called for interference giving the Wildcats the ball on the Yellowjackets' 32-yard line.
But Meridian's offense stalled after the flag, and the Wildcats tallied their first points in similar fashion to their last trip to St. Martin.
Gambrell connected on a 48-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead, with 9:33 left in the first quarter. The senior kicker hit a 55-yard field goal against the Yellowjackets on Sept. 19.
Campbell recorded the lone touchdown of the first half with 5:31 in the second quarter after the Wildcats' special teams came up with a big play.
Meridian partially blocked a punt to give the offense the ball on the Yellowjackets' 43-yard line.
The Wildcats were called for an illegal substitution before the first play following the short punt, but the extra five yards didn't slow down Campbell.
The senior took off for 19 yards down to St. Martin's 29 on the first play from scrimmage.
Campbell made his way to the end zone on the next play, breaking through the middle of the line and cutting to the left sideline for a 29-yard run and a 10-0 lead.
Wildcats sophomore Cordera Eason, who saw limited action carrying the ball six times for 72 yards, tallied the last score for Meridian.
With 1:20 left in the third quarter, the 214-pound back broke free down the left sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run and a 17-0 lead.
St. Martin's D.J. Jackson provided the home team's lone offensive highlight in the fourth quarter. The senior wide receiver caught a 93-yard touchdown pass from Weston with 8:30 left.