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Coming off back-to-back losses on the road, Class 2A, DII Meridian Yellowjackets hope to give faithful fans plenty to cheer about on homecoming night against Bartlett

Despite a strong start in their second straight game on the road, mistakes proved costly for the Meridian Yellowjackets. Malakoff Cross Roads struck early and often with the passing game and wore down the Jackets with the run as the Bobcats clawed their way to a convincing 42-12 victory last Friday night at Rock Tower Stadium.

Hoping to give the Meridian faithful plenty to cheer about on Homecoming Night, the Jackets (0-2) will host the Bartlett Bulldogs (0-2) at 7 p.m. this Friday at Jacket Stadium.

“Bartlett has a very talented running back, speed all over the field at their skill positions, and their quarterback has improved in each of their two ball games,” Meridian football head coach Jim Kerbow said. “Defensively, we will have to sharpen our tackling skills and the secondary will need to be locked in.”

Much like the Jackets, the Bulldogs have opened the season with back-to-back losses to Frost, 46-26, and Axtell, 59-0. Despite 23 returning lettermen including seven offensive and six defensive starters, the Bulldogs were picked to finish last in District 13-2A, DII by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.

“Defensively, they changed schemes last week, so they will be better on defense as they settle into the new scheme,” Kerbow said. “Therefore, offensively we will need to minimize mistakes and be more efficient in the passing game if we want to be successful.

“We also will need to clean up our special teams. We can’t give up points in that area if we want to be successful down the road.”

Despite surrendering a touchdown on Cross Roads’ opening possession, the Jacket answered right back with a scoring drive of their own, capped by junior quarterback Matty Jones breaking off a keeper down the right sideline for a 44-yard score.

“We marched the ball down the field on that opening drive and scored,” Kerbow said. “But as the game wore on, we continuously shot ourselves in the foot with missed assignments in all phases of the game, including penalties and poor tackling.”

After scoring on their opening possession, the Jackets repeatedly produced good gains on the ground. But untimely penalties and the lack of an effective passing game killed drives. Senior Brayden Wehmeyer led the Jackets with 140 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Jones added 113 yards on 10 attempts for two touchdowns. Connecting with four different receivers, Jones completed five of 14 passes for 56 yards, hitting sophomore Jesse Scott twice for 20 yards.

“Offensively, we could not get out of our own way,” Kerbow said. “Whether it was a turnover, a penalty, or a missed assignment, we were our own worst enemy. Correcting these issues will continue to be an emphasis at practice during the week.”

Capitalizing on a Meridian fumble, Cross Roads scored just before halftime to take a 22-6 lead, then blocked a Jacket punt to open the third quarter to take control of the game. With missed tackles allowing some long runs that appeared stopped, the Jackets could not find a way to consistently slow down the Cross Roads offensive attack.

“Defensively, we played well at times,” Kerbow said. “However, we have to be better tacklers, which we will continue to work to improve.”

Senior Noah Alviso led Meridian with eight tackles, followed by senior John Wyatt with seven, junior Alex Rodriguez with six, along with freshman Josh Nunez and junior Ian Gomez with four each, while sophomore Garrett Pope came up with a fumble recovery.

With two more non-district games remaining before opening District 10-2A, Division II competition against 2022 state finalist and second-ranked Mart Sept. 22, the Jacket coaching staff have seen bright spots, but remain focused on areas that need improvement.

“We have improved in our run game,” Kerbow said. “Our offensive line continues to be a bright spot. Those five guys in the trenches really opened some holes Friday night, which allowed us to move the ball down the field.

“On the other side of the ball, our defensive front seven improved a lot this week as well. However, we still have a lot of work to do in our passing game and in the secondary.”


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