Coming off an open week, Class 2A, DII Meridian Yellow Jackets host Hico Tigers on Senior Night in District 10-2A, DII clash still looking for their first win of the season
MERIDIAN — Refusing to give up and accept moving down to play six-man football in 2022, the proud Meridian Yellow Jacket football program chose to opt up and stay on the 11-man gridiron despite diminishing enrollment numbers. Consequently, the Jackets have assumed the role of David taking on a host of Goliaths all season long.
After getting a much-needed break in the action with an open date in the middle of District 10-2A, Division II play last week, the Jackets will head into the home stretch of the 2022 Texas high school football season still in search of their first win.
“We focused heavily on our fundamentals,” Meridian head coach Jim Kerbow said. “It was a great benefit because it allowed us to slow practice down and focus on one side of the ball each day. We were also able to get some players rest that had some minor lingering injuries.”
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Jackets (0-4 in district, 0-8 overall) will host the Hico Tigers on Senior Night at 7 p.m. Friday at Jacket Stadium. The Tigers (2-3, 3-6) snapped a three-game losing streak with a strong 56-12 victory over the Hubbard Jaguars (1-3, 1-7) last week.
“We are very similar to Hico physically,” said Kerbow as the Jackets will wrap up the regular season on the road at Frost Nov. 4. “We are also very similar scheme-wise, which plays to our favor offensively and defensively. We believe that Friday night will be a great football game, and if we play fundamentally sound, then we can come out on top.”
Despite battling the numbers disadvantage, the Jackets have taken strides in the right direction while growing up on the gridiron over the last three seasons. Although Meridian has not qualified for the postseason since 2017, the Jackets have a rich Texas high school football tradition dating back to 1916 – four seasons before the University Interscholastic League even existed.
While posting an impressive all-time 537-401-36 win-loss-tie record for a .570 winning percentage, the Jackets have qualified for the postseason 26 times and won 16 district titles.
Inheriting a football program that has posted a dismal 5-34 win-loss record over the last four seasons with a 2-17 district mark, Kerbow knew coming in that his coaching staff would have its work cut out for them. But that did not prevent the new Jacket head coach from setting the bar high.
Following the bi-annual UIL realignment last February, Meridian moved to District 10-2A, Division II to compete against the likes of perennial powerhouse and top-ranked Mart (4-0, 8-0) along with Dawson (4-0, 8-0), Wortham (4-1, 7-2), Hico, Hubbard and Frost.
On the road Oct. 14, the Jackets battled the Hubbard Jaguars in the first half, but saw the game slip away after intermission as Hubbard claimed a convincing 37-10 district victory. Senior running back Brady Taylor ran for a season-high 168 yards in the losing effort as the Jackets rolled up 242 yards rushing on 37 carries, a solid 5.2 yards per attempt average. Junior quarterback Brayden Wehmeyer added 52 yards rushing on six carries while senior Dustan Bowers provided Meridian’s only touchdown on an 18-yard run.
After putting up 10 points in the first half, the Jackets were shut out in the second half. But Meridian repeatedly threatened to score only to be turned back.
Going into the final two games of the season, Taylor leads the Jackets with 433 yards rushing and two touchdowns, followed by Bowers with 195 yards and a score. Senior Daunte Crawford leads Meridian with five receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
“We thought our kids gave great effort against Hubbard,” Kerbow said. “The score did not reflect how we played. Hubbard scored two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. Offensively, we moved the ball effectively, but we struggled in the red zone which stalled out several drives. Brady Taylor had a great night rushing, and Brayden Wehmeyer did a great job directing the offense.”
Throughout the game, the Jacket defense played well enough to keep the Jackets in the game. Senior Alejandro Rodriguez led Meridian with 13 tackles and a forced fumble, followed by junior Noah Alvizo with 12 tackles, senior Gauge Chandler with 11, Taylor with 10 and junior John Wyatt with eight takedowns and an interception. On the season, Alvizo leads the Jackets with 63 tackles, followed by Taylor with 53, freshman Jesse Scott with 47 and Rodriguez with 41.
“The Yellow Jacket defense played very well Friday night,” Kerbow said. “But we had some breakdowns late in the fourth quarter which allowed Hubbard to pull away.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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