Late penalty prevents Bulldogs from tying game

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 2, 2006

Meridian &8212; One call can decide a game, and unfortunately Natchez came out on the short end of a penalty, as Natchez suffered its first loss of the season 28-14 on the road at Meridian.

&8220;I feel real fortunate, because they&8217;re pretty good and we struggled offensively tonight,&8221; first-year MHS coach Larry Weems said after his team improved to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in region play.

Natchez, which came in averaging better than 40 points per game, fell to 4-1 and 0-1. Bulldog quarterback Jason Bruce &8212; an all-state candidate who totaled more than 400 yards of offense just a week ago &8212; was limited to 84 yards passing and was sacked twice to finish with just 18 yards on 11 rushing attempts.

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McQuarley, meanwhile, wasted no time showing his speed for the Wildcats.

On the third play of the game, he found a little space behind the secondary and hauled in a pass from Walton Mitts &8212; then outraced everyone to the end zone for an 82-yard touchdown. John Carroll&8217;s kick made it 7-0 MHS just 75 seconds into the contest.

Just before the end of the period, McQuarley caught a pass from Tyler Russell across the middle, bounced off a defender and raced 59 yards for another score. Carroll&8217;s kick made it 14-0 with 12 seconds left in the first.

&8220;We got a couple of big plays early, but we had two or three chances to get something done and we didn&8217;t,&8221; Weems said of MHS, which totaled 386 yards and 17 first downs.

&8220;We just never got into a position where we could breathe comfortably,&8221; Weems said. &8220;(Natchez) kinda got going and we got back on our heels a little bit.&8221;

Natchez, which had four turnovers, punted on its first three possessions before losing a fumble and throwing an interception. But the Bulldogs found the end zone on their final two drives of the first half.

Latarus Frazier, who had runs of 25 and 26 yards on the scoring drive, capped off an eight-play, 71-yard march by crashing in from 3 yards out to pull within 14-7 midway through the second.

Meridian answered at the 2:18 mark when McQuarley made a circus catch behind a defender for a 13-yard touchdown from Russell &8212; but Natchez quickly struck back.

Taking over with just 2:09 on the first-half clock, the Dogs went 57 yards in six plays and scored on a 3-yard run by Bruce with 11 seconds left.

Jared Anderson&8217;s kick made it 21-14 at halftime.

There was no scoring in the third quarter, but MHS got a big momentum swing early in the fourth.

Edward Johnson fielded a punt for Natchez and made a dazzling return of 66 yards for a touchdown that could have tied the game &8212; but the return was nullified because of a penalty. The Bulldogs fumbled on the next play;

Meridian recovered and quickly put it in the end zone.

An unsportsmanlike penalty after the penalty put Meridian at the Natchez 21, and two plays later, Russell found Montrez Mosley on a 20-yard touchdown pass.

&8220;That was a big swing there,&8221; Weems said. &8220;We took advantage there, but we got down close a couple of times and didn&8217;t get points on the board and you just can&8217;t do that. We&8217;ve gotta get better and gotta get more consistent.

&8220;But give them credit,&8221; Weems said of Natchez. &8220;They had a good plan and they&8217;re not a bad football team.&8221;

Russell and Mitts combined for 237 yards through the air, with Russell hitting on 10-of-20 passes for 155 yards and three TDs. McQuarley finished with three catches for 154 yards. Khairi Usher had an interception and a fumble recovery for the Cats on defense.

Natchez is at Oak Grove next week.