Meridian Wildcats

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

Answering questions at the state championship press conference Monday were Meridian players (left) quarterback Tyler Russell and linebacker Khairi Usher.

Wildcats shook off loss and came together as a team to be successful

By Myra Bean

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It’s State Championship game day for the South Panola Tigers as they take on the Meridian Wildcats for the third time in four years for the ultimate honor. Kickoff for the televised event will be at 7 p.m.

Meridian is coached by three-year coach Larry Weems, who spoke at the State Championship press conference on Monday morning.

He brought with him highly recruited, Mississippi State commitment senior quarterback Tyler Russell and senior linebacker Khairi Usher. Usher is fourth on the team in tackles with 77 total and leads the team in interceptions with four.

Meridian played South Panola in the state championship game two years straight in 2005 and 2006. After a year’s absence, the Wildcats are back and playing their best ball, according to Russell.

Meridian has a 13-1 record with the lone 41-13 loss to Wayne County back in September. Right now the Wildcats are on an 11-game win streak.

In the playoffs they defeated last year’s runner up George County 55-24 in the first round, following by a 27-3 win over Hattiesburg. Last week, they shut out Oak Grove 28-0.

Meridian has scored 546 points this year, averaging 39 points per game. They have allowed 217 points, averaging 15.5 points per game.

In getting to the state championship, Usher said Weems, “Asked us to play hard, play up to our ability.”

Weems went on to describe his team as, “great, not perfect, but almost.”

He talked about how resilient the players are.

“They did what they had to do that week in order to be successful,” Weems said. “They are a close group, come together and became a family.

“We are not the most talented group around and we certainly are not the biggest group but they believe in each other,” he added. “They are a fun team to be with.”

Weems admitted he did ask the players to do the best they can do.

“I can’t control what other teams have or what other teams do,” Weems said. “You just do the best with what you got. You give your best efforts. Give your best, do your best, every time, every down and when the thing is over with, we will accept the results. I believe your best will be enough when you collectively put it all together.”

Weems said starting quarterback Russell is  just one of the guys like anybody else.

“Tyler is pretty level-headed. He is not full of himself,” he said. “He is not worried about what he does. He is about leading our team, doing his job and whatever his responsibility is to help the team be successful. He really does not care who makes the play. It’s just somebody. It’s really an unselfish group.”

Offensively, Weems said he has a number of players who can make a lot of plays.

“But there is only one ball,” Weems said. “Everybody does not get it every play. They are just worried about us doing it. It could have been a problem. People could have been selfish and say I want the ball more. I tell you they are more concerned about our team being successful and winning than whatever happens to them individually because they are smart enough to know those things will work out if we have a successful team.”

Russell, 6’5”, 213 pounds, said the Wildcats started the season shaky with the loss to Wayne County, but after that came together as a team.

“He (Weems) said this group right here should be playing for a state championship because we have the team,” Russell said.

On the players around him, Russell said he feels like he has the best wide receivers in the state.

“I have a good offensive line and my running back helps me out a lot,” he said. “I really have the easy job. My job is to get the ball to the playmakers and let everything else take care of itself. Our defense is really playing good right now.”

Russell has completed 165 of 278 passes for 3,041 yards, five interceptions and 39 touchdowns.

Some familiar names on the Wildcats roster include Luke and Tyler Stanley who are now sophomores at Meridian. Luke is a quarterback and Tyler is an offensive lineman.

The Wildcats have a total of 3,166 receiving yards with 39 receiving touchdowns and 2,360 rushing yards and 38 rushing touchdowns. The offense has 27 turnovers and Meridian opponents committed 34 turnovers.

On defense, the Wildcats are led in tackles by senior linebacker Michael Pack with 134.