Petal looks for payback at Meridian

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Petal Panthers have been rolling the last two months. They’ve won six of their last seven games, but the only slip up came to this week’s, second-round opponent – Meridian.

Petal scored on its opening possession against the Wildcats in October, but they got dominated the rest of the first half. The second half was better for Petal, but the deficit was too much to overcome.

“I really don’t know what was different (in the first half compared to the second) other than (Meridian) came out in the first half and dominated us,” Petal coach Marcus Boyles said. “We got the ball on the opening kickoff and went right down the field to make it 7-0. Then from then on, it was all Meridian in the first half. We just dug ourselves a hole 21-7 and could never get out of that hole. I thought we played really well the second half, but we got ourselves in too big a hole in the first half to get out of it.”

On the flip side, Petal (8-4) dominated the first three quarters last week against D’Iberville, but it allowed the Warriors to make the game interesting with 21 points in the final quarter. Boyles attributed the comeback to a few things, but gave credit to the opponent for not giving up.

A fumble and an onside kick recovery, combined with D’Iberville’s restlessness, allowed the final score to look closer than how the majority of the game played out.

“Us relaxing led us to us having a quarterback-running back exchange issue,” Boyles said. “The quarterback probably should have done a better job, but at the same time, the running back should have secured the handoff. Those two guys know better. They’ve played enough games to know better. When you have an unforced turnover, to me it’s a mental mistake.”

Senior Nataurean “Phat” Watts had his eighth consecutive 100-yard game Friday night, totaling 166 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. He left the game in the second half due to a foot injury and didn’t return, but Boyles was positive when asked if Watts would be ready to play Friday at Meridian. 

“He’s good,” Boyles said Monday. “He’s going to be ready to go Friday night. He went to the doctor (Monday) morning and he’s ready to play.”

The fourth-seeded Wildcats (6-6) handed Gulfport a first-round, overtime loss Friday, edging the Admirals 21-14. They began the season 2-6 overall but have won last four games, starting with the 28-21 win over the Panthers. Wins over Terry, George County and Gulfport followed.

What helped with the turn-a-round was getting senior defensive end and Ole Miss commit Deuntra Hyman back from injury. Boyles calls him the leader of the defense, and when you pair him with another defensive end Ole Miss commit, junior Jamond Gordon, the Meridian defense is hard to beat.

In the last four wins for Meridian, Terry’s 27 points were the most scored on it during the wining streak. Teams are averaging 16 points per game in the last four outings, compared to 30 points per game in the first eight games.

On offense, teams have had a tough time stopping junior quarterback Tevarrius Adams through the air and on the ground. He leads the team on the ground by 250 yards with 805 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 160 carries, and he’s passed for 2,272 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on a 54-percent completion rate.

We have to tackle him in open space. The first guy needs to make sure he slows him down and we need the 10 other guys. That needs to happen. He’s a really good athlete and it’s extremely hard for one guy to bring him down in open field. We need some guys to really get there in a hurry and help out.”

Seniors Jaquaris Dean and Curt Martin are his two top targets. Dean has 46 grabs for 597 yards and five scores, and Martin has 509 yards and five touchdowns on 27 receptions.

Petal and Meridian are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff in Meridian.