• John Macon Gillespie

GotW | W1: The Breakdown

Players To Watch:

Meridian Wildcats

Tee Adams: Last season Adams served as a jack of all trades as he tallied over 300 yards receiving, while splitting time at quarterback. He threw for over 1,100 yards and nine scores in split time under center in 2016. In jamboree action last weekend he was 12/12 for 252 yards and three scores. That could be a foreshadowing of what this season will look like for him.

JaQuaris Dean: Dean is the second-leading returning rusher behind his backfield mate, Adams. After averaging 5.2 yards per carry a season ago, the versatile back is sure to receive an increase from 72 carries in 2016. The rising senior will also chip in on passing downs due to his ability to block and catch out of the backfield.

Deuntra Hyman: Hyman is a monster off of the edge, as he recorded 19 sacks and 30 quarterback hurries as a junior. He packs a ton of strength into his long, athletic frame and defenses will struggle to stop him all season long. He’s the type of player that will change more than a few games for the Wildcats this season.

Eli Stringfellow: It’s mighty hard to get anything by Stringfellow on the edge. He’s one of the top defensive backs to watch in the magnolia state this season. In 2016 he intercepted six passes and deflected another 14 away. Additionally, the rising senior flashed his versatility as a rusher and receiver for the Wildcats last fall.

AJ Hopkins: Another star in the Wildcat secondary.Hopkins and Stringfellow were dangerous last season as Hopkins add seven picks to Stringfellow’s six. The rising junior has prototypical size and is still improving leaps and bounds as he has two years of prep ball to go.

Tupelo Golden Wave

Stephon McGlaun: McGlaun is a big, strong junior that made plays downfield with his arm and legs last season. This season he will no longer split snaps as he did in 2016, and his offensive coordinator Cody Stubblefield will look for the talented signal caller to take a step forward.

Jaquerrious Williams: Last season Williams was named the SES PrimeTime award winner, due to his breakout sophomore showing. Last season he raced just passed the 1,000-yard mark to go with 13 scores on the ground. This season could see even more production with him, and that includes in the passing game. Williams is dynamic, destructive and explosive.

Jett Johnson: The unquestioned leader of the Wave defense is 2017 Elite 10 member, and leading returning tackler, Jett Johnson. Everything about Johnson is impressive, from his leadership to his size and on down to his instincts for the game. He can pick off passes in coverage, make tackles in the box and in open field and even rush the passer. Expect him to have a big hand in this contest.

Peter Gray: One thing was clear when I saw Gray at practice last week, the offseason was mighty good to him. His 6’4 frame is much more filled as he enters his senior season than it was when he when he made 87 tackles, registered five sacks and picked off four passes as a junior.

Tay Standifer: Standifer’s role has continued to grow over the last two seasons. He was counted on heavily as a freshman in 2015 when he tallied 91 tackles. Now, as a junior, he will again be a fixture in the defensive backfield, but he will also provide crucial leadership in that area. His size and athleticism make him a special player, and he appears set to burst onto the statewide radar this season.

Keys to the Game:

Tee Adams’s ability to distribute the ball to his stable of playmakers through the air will provide a major challenge for the stout Tupelo defense. It will be interesting to follow how Meridian divides their play calling between the run and pass. Cornerback is a position the Wildcats will almost certainly look to stress.

Last season Tupelo’s season ended a bit unexpectedly in the second round when rival Madison Central crashed their undefeated season and title hopes in one shot. Trent Hammond has stated this offseason that his team threw last season in the trash. With so many familiar faces returning in key roles, it will be interesting to see if the end of last season gives this team an extra edge.

Meridian is a confident and driven bunch entering the 2017 season. Head coach Calvin Hampton’s team is bought in, and with their talent it’s hard to imagine someone slowing their will this season. No doubt they are more than ready to unleash offseason-induced tension under the lights in the Flood Zone on Friday night as they enter the season with a #5 ranking after finishing 2016 outside the final SES Top 10 poll.

Both starting quarterbacks in this game split time under center season ago. This year they will be leaders for their respective teams. I am extremely excited to see juniors Stephon McGlaun and Tee Adams face off tonight, and both face a whale of a challenge in the opposing the defense.


Turnovers. It’s simple. Heck, even cliche, but the turnover battle is usually a good indicator of the outcome of a football game.

Last season the Golden Wave fumbled just 10 times, losing possession seven of those instances. Against Madison Central, in their lone loss of the season, they fumbled five times and lost possession each time. That was on top of two interceptions.

The Wildcats picked off 25 passes, forced 15 fumbles and recovered seven fumbles a season ago.

There you go, old numbers to predict what might happen in a new season. I’m sure glad football is back so we get to learn about these teams all over again.

#Tupelo #Meridian #JohnLukeMcCord

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