With fallen warriors sidelined, Class 2A, DII Meridian Yellowjackets lose slugfest with Milano Eagles; prepare to open District 10-2A, DII action against second-ranked & undefeated Mart Panthers
Already forced to overcome the obstacle of being one of the smallest 11-man football teams in the state, the Meridian Yellowjackets have their hands full every time they enter a game fully-loaded. But when injuries take their toll and leave them shorthanded, it becomes a bridge too far.
Before the first quarter came to a close last Friday night, the Jackets found themselves playing without three starters. And that obstacle became too much to overcome as the Milano Eagles slugged their way to a 21-6 victory over Meridian last Friday night at Jacket Stadium.
“We are very proud of the way our kids played from the opening kickoff to the final buzzer,” Meridian football head coach Jim Kerbow said. “Milano is a good football team, and we stood toe-to-toe with them all night.
“I feel like we turned a corner as a team. Not once did our kids back down in the face of adversity, which kept us in the game all night. The community of Meridian was very well-represented Friday night.”
This week, the Jackets (1-3) will open District 10-2A, DII competition by hitting the road to take on the second-ranked and undefeated Mart Panthers (4-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at the Mart ISD Athletic Complex. After advancing to the state title game last season, Mart was picked to return to the state championship by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. So far, the Panthers have not disappointed.
“Mart is number two for a reason,” Kerbow said. “They are very athletic at every position, but I have no doubt that our kids will come out fighting Friday night. If we can eliminate the big plays on defense and play mistake free on offense Friday night, we can compete with them.”
With injuries clearly playing a role in derailing the Jackets in what proved to be a winnable game against Milano (2-1), senior John Wyatt went down during practice, followed by junior Matty Jones and sophomore Cohen Lumpkins forced to leave early in the game.
As a result, the Jacket offense struggled, producing only six points on two field goals and turning the ball over four times. While Meridian moved the ball at times while accumulating 215 yards of total offense, points proved hard to come by.
Senior Brayden Wehmeyer led the Jackets with 131 yards rushing while competing eight of 18 passes for 35 yards in place of Jones as signal-caller. Sophomore Garrett Pope provided the only points with a 31-yard and a 28-yard field goal.
“When players get injured early in the ball game, the game plan that you have worked all week goes out the window,” Kerbow said. “Despite the setbacks, our kids continued to fight. We had several opportunities offensively to turn the tide, but could not capitalize on those opportunities.”
After falling behind 21-6 in the first half, the Jacket defense shut down Milano, allowing only 253 total yards and coming up with three turnovers. Senior Noah Alvizo led Meridian with nine tackles, followed by junior Alex Rodriguez and Pope with seven each. Junior Ian Gomez added six takedowns and two fumble recoveries.
“Our defense played lights out, especially in the second half,” Kerbow said. “The Slot T offense is very physical in nature, but our kids showed their grit, determination and toughness Friday night. The defense fought all night and kept the game within reach.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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