REGAINING THEIR FOOTING

in Football

Class 2A, DII Meridian takes first steps on the road to recovery in scrimmage at Valley Mills, hopes to leap forward this week against Chico

After traveling to face the Bosque County arch-rival Valley Mills Eagles for their first scrimmage of the 2022 Texas high school football season last Friday night, the Meridian Yellowjackets will put their team to the test in its second scrimmage and final tune-up by once again hitting to road to take on the Chico Dragons at 5 p.m. Thursday.

With 10 offensive and 10 defensive returning starters for Meridian, new head coach Jim Kerbow hopes to lead the Jackets back into contention despite fielding low numbers after suiting up 23 players for last Friday’s scrimmage at Valley Mills. In fact, after turning in enrollment numbers for the realignment, Meridian fell into the Class 1A six-man football category, but opted to play up to continue fielding an 11-man squad.

“We thought our kids played hard,” Kerbow said. “Valley Mills is very talented, and we felt like our kids played with them the majority of the scrimmage.

Although the Jackets held their own at times, particularly on defense, the Valley Mills Eagles looked like a team ready to challenge for a playoff berth in District 8-2A, DI battling fourth-ranked Marlin, seventh-ranked Crawford, Bosqueville, Rosebud-Lott, Riesel, Moody and Bruceville-Eddy. Second-year head coach Bob Featherston will have five offensive and eight defensive starters to build around this season.

“We felt like our offense executed well,” Kerbow said. “We haven’t installed the entire offense so we still have a lot of work to do. We felt like the defense tackled well, our kids flew to the ball, that was encouraging.”

With one more scrimmage serving as the dress rehearsal for the 2022 Texas high school football season, the Jackets will line up against Chico as the Dragons are coming off a winless 2021 campaign. Despite coming off hard times, Chico brings back 23 varsity lettermen, including nine offensive and nine defensive starters.

Without posting a winning record since 2016, the Meridian Yellowjackets will be undergoing their third football head coaching change in four years. But with 21 years of coaching experience, Kerbow hopes to be the man to get it right this time after spending the last three seasons as the Itasca head coach.

Seeking their first postseason appearance in five years, the Class 2A, Division II Yellowjackets posted a dismal 5-34 win-loss record over the last four seasons with a 2-17 district mark. Kerbow realizes that his coaching staff has its work cut out for them, but that has not prevented the new Jacket head coach from setting the bar high.

“Our offensive line was getting off the ball, and we tackled well,” Kerbow said. “We still need work in all areas. Our kids are learning new systems, offensively and defensively.”

Following the bi-annual UIL realignment last February, Meridian moves to District 10-2A, Division II to compete against the likes of perennial powerhouse and third-ranked Mart, along with 20th-ranked Wortham, Hico, Dawson, Hubbard and Frost. The Jackets will open the 2022 regular season by making their third consecutive road trip as Kerbow returns to Itasca to take on the Wampus Cats at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26.

“My expectations of our football team is to win at least five games and make the playoffs,” Kerbow said. “Obviously, District 10-2A is a very tough district. But I believe if we can create buy-in, we can compete for the third or fourth seed. Meridian has a lot of talent at the skill positions. We must get kids in the right positions and build their confidence.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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