Wildcats good at home
By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
November 21, 2003
Forgive the coaches on the Meridian High School football team's staff if they are humming the lines from Paul Simon's and Art Garfunkel's classic "Homeward Bound" on the sidelines tonight. Especially since the Wildcats players are probably unfamiliar with the classic road song form the 60s.
But it has been a long time since Meridian High has suited up for a football game on its home field in Ray Stadium.
The Wildcats last home game was on Oct. 24 against Brandon, which Meridian High won 24-14. The squad hasn't lost a home game since the first game of the season against Clinton on Aug. 29.
Granted the road hasnt been too hard on the Wildcats. They rattled off road wins against Hancock and Northwest Ranking to close the regular season, and Meridian High picked up its first playoff win since 1996 over St. Martin in the opening round last week on the road.
Still, there is no place to play like home.
Tonight's Class 5A second round playoff game is the first time Meridian High has hosted a playoff contest since the 1996 season.
That year, the Wildcats picked up a 25-17 win over Gulfport and a 25-20 over Hattiesburg before losing on the road in the third round to Moss Point 35-9. New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Kenny Smith, who was a senior that year, led Meridian High during the program's last playoff charge.
But it is a new dawn for the rebuilding Wildcats, and they face a familiar foe in the Warriors of Oak Grove High School.
Meridian High came within an eyelash, or one more play from Oak Grove's one-yard line, in the two squads regular season meeting on Oct. 17 of forcing overtime.
The Wildcats failed to get off one more play before time expired and lost to Warriors 28-21.
What has also stayed in the coaching staff's and team's minds is the play of Oak Grove linebacker/running back Gary Pack.
The senior two-way player chalked up 119 yards on the ground and was able to make some big stops against Meridian High's offense in the first meeting.
But Stanley said as good as Pack is the Warriors present even more challenges than their headline player.
Meridian High fields an imposing ground game of its own to help offset Oak Groves high-powered attack.
The Wildcats one-two running punch of senior Cordae Campbell and sophomore Cordera Eason have combined for 28 touchdowns this season.
Campbell has run for 1,229 yards and Eason has posted 786 yards, as Meridian Highs grind-it-out offense has kept the ball away from the oppositions offense for most of the season.
But the Wildcats may have an edge entering tonights contest, as Meridian High will get a chance to show what may have happened if it got off just one more play in the seconds on Oct. 17.
The Wildcats are scheduled to kick off against the Warriors at 7 p.m. tonight.