Meridian falls at home to Riesel 36-17

Riesel Rises

After playing playoff caliber teams in back-toback non-district games at home, the Meridian Yellowjackets hit the road this week looking for their first win in the 2017 Texas high school football season.

After opening against TAPPS powerhouse Waco Reicher Catholic Academy, the Jackets continued its non-district gauntlet with 2016 playoff qualifier Riesel as the Indians handed Meridian a 36-17 loss at Jacket Stadium last Friday night.

“I was disappointed in the loss,” Meridian head coach Chris Roberts said. “We are a work in progress. I think we got better, but I think that we still have a ways to go. It all has to be clicking by the time district starts on Oct. 13.”

Longtime Chilton head coach Robert Little had the Indians (1-1) ready to play after Meridian posted as thrilling 24-20 victory over the Indians last season.

Meridian (0-2) came out ready to play as well. The Indians got on the board first to take a 6-0 lead. But the Jackets quickly responded as senior quarterback John Anderson connected with wide receiver Victor Garza on a crowd-pleasing 76-yard touchdown strike. Jordan Degollado nailed the extra point to give Meridian an early 7-6 lead.

And just like that, Riesel took the lead right back as Indian quarterback Steven Searcy broke free for a 50-yard scoring scamper, but could not convert the two-point conversion.

With Riesel holding on to a 12-7 lead until late in the second quarter, Anderson recaptured the lead for the Jackets with a 20-yard touchdown run, and Degollado booted the PAT to give Meridian a 14-12 lead.

Jacket wide receiver/defensive back Derek Malott went down with a foot injury, leading Meridian with a hole to fill on both sides of the ball. In the meantime, the Indians regained the lead as Searcy scored his second of three rushing touchdowns to give Riesel an 18-14 lead at internission.

“We had an injury early in the game, and when you lose a guy that starts on both sides of the ball, then you have to adjust the game plan,” Roberts said. “We ended up getting on track, but it took a little bit to formulate new plans.

“Overall, we did not stop the run and stop drives and we did not protect well enough to sustain drives. We had a chance in the second half to cut into the lead, but ended up turning the ball over.”

Riesel took control of the ball game in the second half, scoring 18 unanswered points to build a commanding lead before Degollado split the uprights for a 27-yard field goal as time expired.

Although Riesel opened the season with a disappointing 34-12 loss to Thrall, the Indians entered the season as a favorite to return to the postseason while competing in District 8-2A, Division I with the state’s top-ranked Mart, followed by 16th-ranked Bosqueville and Italy.

“I thought that we played hard, but as the game wore on fatigue really started to affect us,” Roberts said. “We still need to be better at protection and catching the football on offense. The run game needs to continue to improve. Defensively, we had some alignment problems that really hurt.”

In the losing effort, Anderson threw for one touchdown and ran for another while completing nine of 21 passes for 186 yards and leading the Jackets in rushing with 40 yards on 15 carries. Garza led receivers with three catches for 117 yards, while Danny Cassidy also hauled in three passes for 26 yards.

Defenisvely, Demetrik Davenport led Meridian with eight tackles, followed by Nathan Lira with five.

Next up will be Class 2A, Div. I’s eighth-ranked Crawford, followed by 2016 playoff qualifier Moody and undefeated Rosebud-Lott.

“Crawford is someone that you can always count on, they are always a tough physical team,” Roberts said. “They run the ball well and we certainly struggled with that Friday. This will be an excellent challenge for us to stop such a potent running attack.”

The Pirates will be coming off a shocking 21-20 loss to Class 3A, Div. II Clifton last week. Crawford entered the season as the state’s second ranked team after advancing to the state championship game in 2016.

“Offensively, we need to clean up our blocking and get better at running the ball,” Roberts said. “We will look at some ways to improve the passing game to make it more efficient too. Again, we need to stop the big play, we need to force turnovers, we need to eliminate negative plays on offense and make sure we hold on to it.

“The non district schedule is what we use to get ready for district play. We have to continue to get better on offense and defense, continue to work our game plans and be ready to roll when district time comes.”

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