Petal faces must-win at Meridian Friday

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Petal Panthers don’t have any room for error as the end of the regular season draws near. The Panthers (2-6, 1-3 in Region 3-6A) can’t afford another loss, because the chance of an 11th straight playoff berth will be out the window.

Petal has to finish the season 4-0 and it took one step toward that goal with a win over Jim Hill last week.

“I felt good about the week of practice we had and I felt good about the kids coming out ready to play,” Petal coach Marcus Boyles said. “A lot of times, when you play Jim Hill you don’t always get your best effort from your guys. This year it’s a little different for us because we had the same record as they did going into the game.”

The next challenge for the Panthers is their final road game of the season. They’ll travel to Meridian Friday night before entertaining George County and Terry at home.

The biggest key for Petal, as always, is how the week of practice goes. Boyles has said multiple times this season he can tell how his players will play Friday night after a week of practice. While the Panthers are 1-2 in the last three games, Boyles believes it’s been the best three weeks of practice all season.

The Panthers nearly beat Oak Grove, then hung tough with Brandon before beating Jim Hill during that stretch.

“I think our kids have finally realized that and we’ve had leaders step up,” Boyles said.

The Wildcats (3-5, 1-3) are in a similar situation. They can’t afford to lose any more games either, including Friday against Petal. The tiebreaker will almost certainly be used to decide who gets that fourth playoff spot if both finish the season.

The Meridian offense runs through senior quarterback Tevarrius Adams, as he’s proven to be a decent passer but he also leads the team in rushing, too. However, the offense only scored six points against Oak Grove two weeks ago and 12 last week in a loss to Brandon.

Meridian is currently riding a three-game losing streak after opening region play with a 41-19 win over Jim Hill.

“It’s the same Meridian,” Boyles said. “Big offensive linemen and skill players everywhere. It’s the quarterback and the things that he does. He extends plays with his legs and he’s a hard guy to tackle. He can throw it – it looks like it – 70 yards through the air. You’re not going to get a knockout blow on him, so the first guy will have to get there and holler ‘help’.

On defense, Meridian has a handful of players who have Division I opportunities and who are ranked as a Top 50 Mississippi prospect. Safety AJ Hopkins, defensive end Jamond Gordon and Xavier Curry are sure to make an impact Friday night against the Panthers.

“When you cut that film on, it looks like the same defense we played in 2015 for the south state championship but different names and different numbers. Just big kids who can run,” Boyles said.