In Class 2A action, DII Meridian Yellowjackets fall victim to Malakoff Cross Roads late rally, while DI Valley Mills starts fast before succumbing to 24th-ranked Holland
MERIDIAN – Playing in their home opener last Friday night, victory appeared within their grasp for the Class 2A, Division II Meridian Yellowjackets. But then, it slipped away.
Jacket sophomore CJ Gentry ran for two touchdowns and senior Brady Taylor rushed for another, but the Class 2A, DI Malakoff Cross Roads Bobcats rallied in the fourth quarter to slip past Meridian, 24-22, in a non-district matchup at Jacket Stadium.
“Overall, our kids did a great job of coming together as a team and playing through the adversity Friday night,” Meridian head coach Jim Kerbow said. “That is something we had lacked the week before, so it is encouraging to see our players respond in that manner.”
Despite trailing at halftime, the Jackets (0-2) rallied to take a 15-12 lead in the third quarter and had a chance to win late in the game. After getting shutout against Itasca, the Jacket offense found some traction against Cross Roads (1-1) and rallied in the second half.
Taylor led Jackets in rushing with 88 yards on nine carries, followed by senior Dustan Bowers with 41 yards and Gentry with 31. Sophomore quarterback Matty Jones completed six of 17 passes for 125 yards, but tossed two interceptions. Freshman Jess Scott caught one pass for 42 yards, senior Alejandro Rodriguez pulled down one catch for 29 yards, and senior Daunte Crawford snagged two receptions for 26.
“We were pleased with our efforts in the run game Friday night,” Kerbow said. “We felt that our offensive line stepped up and did a better job this week in both the running and passing game. We did improve in the passing game as well. However, we still have a long way to go in that area.”
Despite giving up two touchdowns in the first half and two more in the second, the Jacket defense did enough to keep Meridian in the game.
“We felt like our defense improved a lot from week one,” Kerbow said. “Our front seven improved significantly this week. Our tackling was more efficient, and the defense created some turnovers, which helped swing momentum.”
Scott led the Jackets with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, followed by Taylor with eight takedowns and a sack, juniors Brayden Wehmeyer and Noah Alviso with seven tackles each, Bowers with a fumble recovery, while Rodriguez and sophomore Ian Gomez pulled down interceptions.
“I don’t think there was one play in particular that turned the game,” Kerbow said. “There were several plays that could have turned the game in our favor, such as the muffed punt, and a dropped pass in the endzone. We also had some hydration issues early in the third quarter, which caused a couple of drives to stall out.”
This week, Meridian will play host the Bartlett Bulldogs (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday for homecoming at Jacket Stadium. Bartlett opened the season with a 34-16 road victory over Frost before seeing their home opener against Axtell cancelled due to inclement weather Friday night.
Despite being picked to finish in the District 13-2A, DII cellar by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, the Bulldogs came into the season loaded with experienced underclassmen.
“Bartlett is athletic, especially at the quarterback position,” Kerbow said. “And they are very aggressive on defense. However, if we continue to improve in all areas this week, it should be a great Homecoming game.”
HOLLAND 40, VALLEY MILLS 14
HOLLAND – It’s been said that first impressions mean everything. But such did not prove to be the case for the Class 2A, DI Valley Mills Eagles as the 24th-ranked Holland Hornets stung the Eagles, 40-14, last Friday night.
Valley Mills (0-2) put points on the scoreboard first with senior Joe Taylor’s one-yard touchdown run capping the drive. Then after the Hornets (1-1) responded with a touchdown march, the Eagles answered as junior Cason Johnson connected with senior Brady Whitlock on a 12-yard scoring strike.
But after Valley Mills jumped out to a 14-8 first quarter lead, Holland responded with 32 unanswered points to bring down the Eagles. In the losing effort, Johnson completed 11 of 21 passes for 122 yards to lead the Eagles, connecting with senior Damon Pierce on four catches for 57 yards, and Taylor fought for a team-high 49 yards rushing on 20 carries.
“We played a good Holland football team,” Valley Mills head coach Bob Featherston said. “Offensively, we had two great drives to start the game. But after that, we couldn’t move the ball. The defense did some great things, but allowed too many big play touchdowns.”
Defensively, junior Will McDonald led the Eagles with 19 tackles, followed by senior Pecos Dutschmann with 12, Whitlock with 11 and a fumble recovery, senior Ashton Wade with nine and sophomore Joshua McKain with eight.
“We still have lot of work to do on both sides of the ball,” said Featherston as Valley Mills prepares for its home opener against the DeLeon Bearcats (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Homecoming Night. “We will continue to work on little things like tackling, blocking and being more physical. It should be a good game next Friday against DeLeon.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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