Opting to play up in 11-man football, Meridian Yellowjackets earn all-District 10-2A, DII honors as taking the field as David taking on a host of Goliaths
Despite playing the 2022 Texas high school season as the team with the lowest enrollment numbers in the state in 11-man-football, the Meridian Yellowjackets made their presence known and remained competitive in a loaded District 10-2A, Division II with the district champion and eight-time state champion Mart Panthers returning to the big game once again.
As a result, the Jackets placed two players – junior offensive tackle Noah Alvizo and senior inside linebacker Brady Taylor on the all-district first-team and eight more players on the second-team.
“District 10-2A is a very competitive district, so we are pleased with the selections,” Meridian first-year head coach Jim Kerbow said. “Our kids here in Meridian give great effort, and we did improve as the season progressed. So, our players that were selected were very deserving of the awards.”
Yellowjackets making the second-team included Taylor at running back, Alvizo at inside linebacker, senior Dustan Bowers at fullback, sophomore Cooper Katzer at offensive tackle junior John Wyatt at defensive tackle, freshman Jesse Scott at safety, sophomore Matty Jones at punter and freshman Garrett Pope at placekicker.
Honorable mention selections include senior Alejandro Rodriguez, senior Gauge Chandler, senior Daunte Crawford, junior Brayden Wehmeyer, sophomore Ian Gomez, sophomore Bradley Kihnel and junior Austin Pogue.
By winning their season finale on the road against the Frost Polar Bears, 28-27, in dramatic fashion, not only did the Jackets avoid its second winless season in school history, Meridian snapped a 13-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 8 of the 2021 season.
“It was a huge win for our program,” Kerbow said. “We had to battle through adversity the entire game. It came down to stopping a two-point conversion with 21 seconds left. That game really showed the character of our kids and how relentless they were.”
With only five seniors, the Jackets will have plenty coming back next season to build on. But those five seniors – Bowers, Taylor, Chandler at outside linebacker, Crawford wide receiver and defensive back, and Rodriguez at wide receiver and defensive back – will leave big shoes to fill.
“Looking towards the future we will only lose five seniors,” Kerbow said. “However, those seniors were our leaders, and they have been very positive even though the season has not gone the way we had anticipated. So, these seniors will be tough to replace on and off the field, but they have laid a great foundation for us to build on in the future. As a coaching staff, we believe that we are on a track for success next season.”
In addition to a large and talented group of eighth graders moving into high school next year, the Jackets will have 21 underclassmen lettermen returning.
“We have some leaders that have emerged in our current junior class – Noah Alvizo, Brayden Wehmeyer, Austin Pogue, John Wyatt and Brian Ratliff,” Kerbow said. “I believe they have seen what we are capable of. And if we can have a great spring and summer, we can look for good things coming next season.”
Refusing to move down to play six-man football in 2022, the proud Meridian 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.
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 538-410-36 win-loss-tie record for a .565 winning percentage, the Jackets have qualified for the postseason 26 times and won 16 district titles.
Inheriting a football program that has now posted a dismal 6-43 win-loss record over the last five seasons with a 3-22 district mark, Kerbow knew coming in that his coaching staff would have its work cut out for them. But even with the low enrollment numbers that left the Jackets with Class 1A numbers while opting up to play as the smallest 11-man football team in the state, Meridian has no plans to reconsider converting to six-man football for next season.
“If our current enrollment numbers hold steady through next fall, we will turn in 2A numbers for the 2024-2026 realignment,” Kerbow said. “Therefore, we do not feel that it is in the best interest of our athletes to move towards six-man football.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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