DEFINING MOMENT

in Football

With dominating 62-0 victory over Ranger, the Meridian Yellowjackets move into position to make a run at a District 8-2A, DII playoff berth

RANGER – Behind a seven-touchdown performance by senior Teagan Smith, the Meridian Yellowjackets ran away with an overwhelming 62-0 victory over the Ranger Bulldogs on the road last Friday night. Coming off a tough District 8-2A, Division II opening loss to the seventh-ranked Albany Lions, the Jackets responded with Meridian’s most lopsided victory since 2007.

“The Albany win or loss was never going to define how good we can be,” Meridian second-year head coach Wade Morton said. “Our kids understood that, and we went into that game working on getting better. We didn’t play bad, but Albany is at a different level, and we strive for that each week.

“Coming into the Ranger game after a lopsided loss to Albany, our kids were focused all week and wanted to be better. The boys’ mindset and preparation was key, and it showed.”

Delivering another dominating defensive performance, the Jackets notched its third shutout of the season. Throwing the Bulldogs for losses on 13 negative yardage plays, Meridian (1-1 in district, 3-3 overall) shut down Ranger for four yards total offense while forcing two turnovers. Ranger (0-2, 0-6) failed to complete a pass on nine attempts and managed only four yards rushing on 27 carries.

Sophomore Michael Crawford led the Jackets with 13 tackles, followed by Smith with eight, while senior Anthony Gonzalez, senior Victor Orozco and sophomore Gage Edwards collected six takedown apiece. Sophomore John Pablo Bernal pulled down an interception that led to a first quarter score, while Austin Perry came up with a fumble to set up another touchdown just before intermission to give Meridian a commanding 35-0 halftime lead.

“We played great defense, but we’ve been playing great defense all year,” said Morton after the Jackets won their first game on the road since Oct. 13, 2017. “The defense is the best thing about our team at the moment. Our coaches do a great job, and the kids do a great job being coachable.”

Thanks to the punishing defensive effort, the Jacket offensive went to work on a short field most of the game, scoring quickly and often.

Offensively, the Jackets scored the most points in a game since 2016, and put up more points in one game than Meridian had totaled in the previous five games combined. Clearly, the Jackets using the open week prior to district to get everyone healthy and back on the field helped the Meridian offensive attack get back on track.

“We mixed it up on offense and gave the ball to six different guys,” Morton said. “I thought the line played well overall, and the boys ran hard. We want to be multiple on offense, and we believe that gives us an advantage. Both players and coaches did a great job being flexible with whatever is thrown their way.”

With Meridian piling up 456 yards of total offense, senior quarterback Dylan Poole led the Jackets with 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while passing for 57 yards and another score. Smith finished with 125 yards rushing to go along with a 20-yard touchdown reception, while sophomore Brady Taylor ran for another 88 yards on the ground.

By winning this game in dominating fashion, the Jackets put themselves in a good position to make a run at Meridian’s first postseason berth since 2017. After hosting the district co-leader Cross Plains (2-0, 6-1) Friday, the Jackets will travel to Hico (0-2, 1-6) for a Thursday game Oct. 22 before losing the regular season out at home against Santo (1-1, 4-3).

“We believe in practices being harder than games,” Morton said. “We want the boys to play fast and be as confident as possible come Friday Night. It’s hard doing things the right way, and you have to pay the price for success upfront to get the results you want.

“Discipline is the shortcut to anything these boys want, and that’s how we’re going to approach this next week, the weeks to follow and on with our program.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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