FIRST WIN & COUNTING

in Football

Meridian runs over Polar Bears, 27-0, to snap 13-game losing streak

MERIDIAN – It’s been said that big things are built one brick at a time. And if you lay one solid brick at a time, soon you will have an impenetrable wall.

On Friday night at Jacket Stadium, the Meridian defense proved to be just that. And by producing a shutout performance, the Yellowjackets declawed the Frost Polar Bears, 27-0, snapping a 13-game losing streak to post their first victory since Oct. 26, 2018.

Running back Anthony Gonzalez ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Dylan Poole and running back Michael Crawford rushed for two more scores as the Jackets (1-1) piled up 255 yards on the ground to control the game.

“We’re proud of our kids,” Meridian football’s second-year head coach Wade Morton said. “They know how to compete, and it wasn’t a matter of if but when we could put it together and bust through. Our coaches and players work so hard, like so many and put in many hours in preparation for 48 minutes of play.”

Not only did the Jackets win the game, the Meridian did so with a dominating performance. After building a 14-0 first half lead behind five-yard touchdown runs by both Poole and Gonzalez, the Jackets swarmed the Frost offensive attack. Then in the second half, Crawford broke off a 30-yard scoring scamper in the third quarter before Gonzalez iced the game with an eight-yard touchdown run early in the fourth.

“We wanted to see our kids be physical and to pound the ball at someone,” Morton said. “But we have several versatile players, and we want to be as multiple as we can on offense. The boys are getting better and better each day.”

In addition to Gonzalez’s game-high 105 yards rushing on 22 carries, Crawford added 65 yards on six attempts while Poole scrambled 17 times for 50 yards and passing for another 79 yards. Brayden Wehmeyer led Meridian with three catches for 22 yards.

“Defense has been lights out the last two weeks,” Morton said. “Our kids are flying to the ball and having fun, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Ironically, Meridian came full circle with the win as the losing streak began with a 28-13 loss at Frost Nov. 2, 2018. By knocking off the Polar Bears Friday night, the Jackets equaled the program’s win total for the last two seasons combined. And it couldn’t have come at a better time as Meridian celebrated Senior Night at Jacket Stadium.

After fielding an extremely young team for his first year as a head coach in 2019, Morton’s program and system has had a chance to start taking root in Meridian, even after navigating the on-again, off-again chaos created by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

“With COVID, we haven’t even been with the kids for a year yet,” Morton said. “With the situation we’re all in, it’s been hard to develop good habits with the kids, and that’s important to a new staff and culture. We’ve made up a lot of ground over the past three months though, and the kids have responded and have met our expectations.”

While returning 10 offensive and 10 defensive starters from the 2019 squad, the Jackets only had one scrimmage to put everything into action on the field before traveling to Kerens for the season opener.

“Unfortunately, we’re all adjusting to only playing one scrimmage,” Morton said. “Like everyone knows, you usually have two scrimmages and can get some good teaching moments from them and make those adjustments before the next one. I was pleased to see our kids compete, especially since there have been so many others things out of their control.”

Despite losing the Bobcats, 19-7, in the opener, Morton saw plenty of positives. After all, Morton inherited a brutal gauntlet of a schedule in 2019, which resulted in the Jackets finishing 0-10 while being outscored, 539-21, and getting shut out seven times. But thanks to the UIL realignment, Morton and his squad were given the opportunity for a fresh start.

“We looked at getting a schedule where we could take a young team and not just play, but compete,” Morton said. “Kids are looking great. The majority of the kids were able to come to strength and conditioning during the summer, and that’s huge for us considering everything that has gone on since last season.

“We have 24 kids playing with 19 of them being returners from last season. And we’re just blessed to get to go compete. Our goal for this season is to be in the playoffs. And not just get in, but compete for a top three spot in district play. Getting the first win is just the beginning.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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