Meridian out-scores Natchez High, 59-34

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; When Meridian scored the first 38 points Friday night against Natchez, the Wildcats ended the game.

All the Bulldogs had to do was give a lackluster performance for the final seconds of the first half and the remainder of the game and go home.

But something strange happened.

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Instead of giving up, Natchez fought back against No. 5 Meridian, not so much to win a game that was already out of hand but to make a point about where the Bulldogs want to go this season. Natchez scored 34 points in the final 24 minutes, making the game a more respectable 59-34 Meridian win.

Natchez quarterback Riley Trask led the comeback, throwing a career-high 47 passing attempts, completing 21 of them for 283 passing yards and four touchdowns while also scoring a touchdown on the ground.

&uot;We just tried to put the first half to the side,&uot; Trask said. &uot;We got it together at halftime and came out with a different attitude. I knew it could be done, and I felt I was the person who had to step up and do something.&uot;

The Natchez passing attack stymied the Wildcat defense in the second half. Meridian simply could not keep up with the large and speedy Bulldog receiving corps.

&uot;Natchez has some kids who can throw and catch the ball about as well as any team we have faced or will face this season,&uot; Meridian head coach Ed Stanley said. &uot;(Trask and wide receivers Rodney Gray, Dekeedrian Jackson and Charles Cothern) are about as good as I’ve seen.&uot;

The Wildcats loaded up on the line of scrimmage in an effort to prevent Natchez from running the ball. Often there was not a Meridian defender more than five yards behind the line of scrimmage. The Bulldogs took the bait, going to the air for the entire game. Natchez attempted only two actual running plays (Bulldog quarterbacks were sacked six times, accounting for the team’s other rushing attempts).

&uot;Our offense is designed to take what’s given to you,&uot; Natchez head coach Lance Reed said. &uot;Our plan coming into the game was to throw the ball. We felt we had the personnel to chunk it, so we did. If we make a few catches in the first half and we keep moving the ball, it could have been a different game.&uot;

Mistakes again proved costly for Natchez. Two blocked punts, two interceptions and a lost fumble resulted in excellent field position for Meridian, which spent a total of offensive plays in its own territory in the first half. Dropped balls in the first half also hurt Natchez, which had only five first downs in the first half, three of which came off of Meridian penalties.

But the Bulldogs also made some big plays in the game, including amazing catches by several different receivers and a recovered onside kick that led to Natchez’s final touchdown. The early deficit was simply too much to overcome against one of the state’s best teams.

Meridian committed a number of mistakes that might have cost it the win against a better team. The Wildcats had 22 penalties for an astounding 231 yards. On Natchez’s opening drive of the second half, Meridian committed three consecutive pass interference penalties, practically showing the Bulldogs the red carpet into the end zone for a Natchez touchdown.

Natchez is 1-5 on the season and 0-2 in district play, but Reed said all he wants from his team is too see improvement each week. The Bulldogs’ performance in the second half should have shown him that.

&uot;This takes us into next week with some momentum,&uot; Reed said. &uot;We play excellent teams every week. That’s what 5A football is all about.&uot;