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September 13, 2021

OWN WORST ENEMY

in Football

In the midst of a three-game road trip, travel weary Class 2A, DII Meridian Yellowjackets suffer buzzkill loss in Bartlett, 37-8

BARTLETT — After lighting up the scoreboard for 42 points the previous week, the Meridian Yellowjackets appeared to be already road weary in the midst of three consecutive out-of-town non-district games.

With penalties and fumbles keeping the Jackets off the scoreboard until late in the game, the Bartlett Bulldogs scored swiftly and often, racing to an overwhelming 37-8 non-district victory last Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.

Despite repeatedly marching into Bartlett territory the entire game, the Jackets (0-3) proved to be their own worst enemy by committing penalties or fumbling the ball to stall drives. In the meantime, the Bulldogs (2-1) used big plays to build a 14-0 halftime lead before putting the game away in the second half.

“Bartlett big-played us all night,” Meridian head coach Wade Morton said. “And when we moved the ball, we kept shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties. Offensively, your only as good as what you can execute. We didn’t do our best and our best is the expectation.”

Buried deep in their own territory, the Bulldogs struck first when freshman Connor Kozma broke free up the middle and raced 86 yards for the touchdown and senior running back Javiere Polynice ran in the two-point conversion to give Bartlett an 8-0 lead with 5:07 left in the first quarter.

On Meridian’s next play from scrimmage, Bartlett defensive tackle Johnathon Degollado recovered a fumbled snap. The Bulldogs capitalized on the turnover by mounting a 12-play scoring drive capped by senior quarterback Devonta Davis’ two-yard keeper.

The Jackets took the second half kickoff and marched into Bartlett territory before the drive stalled. Once again, the Bulldogs struck quickly as Polynice connected with senior wide receiver Jeremy Craig on a halfback pass for a 70-yard touchdown, then ran in the two-point conversion for a 22-0 advantage midway through the third quarter.

“We matched up with Bartlett’s best all night defensively,” Morton said. “They took advantage of our sense of urgency on defense late with a trick play. But overall, we were excited to see three freshman in the secondary hold their own.”

Despite driving into Bulldog territory again, the Jackets turned the ball over on downs and Bartlett responded to put the score out of reach as Davis hooked up with Polynice for a 15-yard scoring strike before connecting with Craig for the two-point conversion to build a 30-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.

After the Bulldogs scored again, Meridian finally got on the scoreboard when quarterback Braden Wehmeyer faked the handoff inside and turned the corner for a 51-yard touchdown run before cashing in on the two-point conversion as well.

With Meridian gaining 201 yards on the ground, Taylor led the Jackets in rushing with 82 yards on 22 carries, followed by running back John Bernal with 41 yards on 10 attempts and Braden Wehmeyer with 50 yards on four totes.

Defensively, Alejandro Rodriguez led Meridian with six tackles and two sacks, followed by Bernal with four takedowns and an interception.

This Friday night, the Jackets will hit the road for the third straight week to take on the Class 2A, DI Moody Bearcats (1-2) coming off a hard-fought loss to Hubbard, 44-38, after knocking off Hico, 42-36, in Week 2 following a 46-7 season-opening loss to Hamilton at home.

“Moody is big up front, love to throw the ball and have a good team,” Morton said. “We do too, and our kids know they are better than what we’ve shown. It’s a process, and we understand that.  And we’re working on building a program that is good every year, and not your fly-by-night, one year every now and then team.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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