Meridian High School quarterback J’Mar Smith saw his opportunity and called his own number, running in 5-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to help the Wildcats upset Brandon 30-28 Friday night at Ray Stadium.
“I just knew I had to put it in and score,” Smith said. “The coach gave me a play to throw it, but I saw something different. The defense dropped back and gave me a hole, so I just took it in for the run.”
Trailing Brandon 28-24 with 6:39 to play, Smith helped drive the Wildcats down the field, completing an 8-yard pass to receiver Corey Davis on fourth-and-7 from the Brandon 42-yard line to keep Meridian alive and set up an eventual first-and-goal from the 6.
The Wildcats (10-3) stalled on three straight running plays before Smith tucked the ball, barely beating a Brandon defender to the end zone with 1:52 left on the clock.
“I tell him right now he made a great play,” Meridian coach Larry Weems said. “If he hadn’t have made it in, I’d probably be choking him.”
Meridian kicker Aaron Garrett missed the ensuing extra point attempt, giving the Bulldogs (11-2) a chance to come back and win the game with a field goal.
Brandon, which began the season ranked atop the Clarion-Ledger’s preseason Super 10, rallied back to the Meridian 39-yard line with nine seconds to play. But Meridian’s Tray Warren tackled Bulldogs’ receiver Josh Stowers before he could reach the sidelines at the 27-yard line, and Brandon was unable to run another play as the clock expired.
The Bulldogs were led by junior running back Darien Tillis, who rushed the ball 21 times for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
The normally subdued Weems embraced players with tears in his eyes after the game, telling them they “shocked the world” with their win.
“If there was ever a David and Goliath battle other than the one we read about in the Bible, I would have to say this was it,” Weems said. “Brandon is just a really talented, well-coached team. We had to play that perfect game, and I don’t know if it was perfect, but I’m emotional because I know what it took for our kids. They played their tails off.”
Tied 14-14 with five seconds left in the half, Garrett kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give Meridian a 17-14 lead at the break. Weems said the decision to kick the ball was crucial.
“I was fixing to go for it,” he said. “For some reason, I came to my senses, and I knew we had a lot better chance of getting points on the board. Aaron just made a great kick, and I’m glad we ended up kicking it.”
Smith finished with 252 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-23 passing, while running back Richard McQuarley carried the ball 19 times for 98 yards and a score
Meridian will travel to Oak Grove for South State next week.