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November 07, 2021

FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE

in Football

Losing only three seniors, Meridian Yellowjackets hope experience proves beneficial after being outsized & outnumbered in District 8-2A, DII

With only three seniors on the roster, the young Meridian Yellowjackets found it difficult to match up physically with the tough District 8-2A, Division I competition this season. Such once again proved to be the case as the Jackets closed out the 2021 Texas high school football season with a 62-3 loss at Santo against the playoff-bound Tigers last Friday night.

Despite already being eliminated from postseason possibilities, the Jackets battled Santo (3-1 in district, 9-1 overall) as Meridian (0-4, 1-9) continues to build the program looking to the future.

“We wanted to finish the right way first and foremost,” Meridian head coach Wade Morton said. “Finishing the right way doesn’t have anything to do with wins or losses. We’ve sacrificed many things to do the right thing, and we’ll continue to do those things. The boys played hard and left it all on the field. They’ve always done that, and that is the expectation.”

Playing in a tough district for the last two years that featured Class 2A, DII’s fourth-ranked Albany Lions (4-0, 9-0) and Santo at the top, the UIL realignment in February may shuffle things up for the Jackets. According to the recently released UIL enrollment snapshot that the realignment will be based on, Meridian turned in 100 students. Although that number would have placed the Jackets among six-man schools in the last realignment, Meridian has opted up to remain playing 11-man football.

“Realignment is always interesting, but we can only focus on getting better,” Morton said. “So, it doesn’t really matter whether we’re in the same district or another.”

Despite playing with a young group, the Meridian defensive unit showed growth and improvement throughout the season. Against Santo, Noah Alviso led the Jackets with eight tackles, followed by Alejandro Rodriguez with six and Brady Taylor with four.

Overall, Rodriguez led Meridian with 46 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery, followed by Alvizo with 29 tackles, as well as Taylor and Brayden Wehmeyer with 20 each.

“We were there to make plays defensively and feel good about the direction we’re going,” Morton said. “As far as the next level, we need to sacrifice more across the board as far as what we’re capable of and what we’re willing to do to attain it. You don’t have to love it all, but all is necessary for our guys to reach their potential.”

Although Santo shutdown the Jackets offensively, limiting Meridian to only 62 yards of total offense, the Jackets showed production promise despite being forced to make mid-season adjustments due to injuries.

“On both sides of the ball, we struggled against Santo,” Morton said. “Speed kills and weight wins. So going into the off-season, we will work on developing both.”

On the season, John Bernal led the Jackets with 708 yards rushing and five touchdowns along with 14 receptions for 77 yards. Despite playing in only six games, Brady Taylor finished with 444 yards rushing and five scores, while Brayden Wehmeyer produced 445 yards rushing and four touchdowns along with seven catches for 90 yards and a score. Matthew Jones led Meridian in passing by completing 28 of 52 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions.

Despite saying goodbye to three seniors – Paul Rivero, Jose Martinez and Chantz Gomez, the Jackets will return 12 juniors, four sophomore and eight freshmen from the 2021 squad, as well as welcome 12 junior high players moving into the high school program in 2022. So, Morton and his coaching staff look forward to going to work for next season.

“We have three seniors graduating,” Morton said. “You can’t cheat the process. A lot of work is needed, and we have to create our own opportunities.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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