Meridian High School coach Larry Weems believes he could use the services of quarterback Tyler Russell and wide receiver Chris Smith in Starkville tonight.
Although that”s not possible, that”s how much respect Weems has for the Yellow Jackets.
Russell and Smith, two Mississippi State freshmen, told Weems they would be available if needed at 7:30 tonight when Meridian plays Starkville. MSU plays host to Jackson State on Saturday.
“They told me they would suit up,” Weems said with a laugh. “Since they were going to be in town, we could use them. I don”t know how coach (Dan) Mullen feels about that, but they were game for it.”
Weems knows it”s not possible for Russell and Smith, who led the Wildcats to the Class 5A state championship last year, to play so he will go with the talent he has.
“I don”t know if anybody has too many good athletes,” Weems said. “We”re all looking for them.”
Weems might have found his answer at quarterback in junior Antoinee Atkins.
Russell was more of a passer, but Weems said Atkins is an athlete who doesn”t mind running the football.
Atkins showed his talent last Friday, rushing 10 times for 218 yards and completing all three of his passes (one completion for) 60 yards as Meridian (2-0) defeated Wayne County 21-7.
“Antoinee was able to make some big plays when we needed him to last week and we were fortunate,” Weems said. “He can do stuff on both sides of the football.”
Starkville coach Bill Lee calls Atkins “a super quarterback who is probably the fastest athlete we”ve seen.”
With Atkins ability to run the option out of a no-huddle situation, the Yellow Jackets know what the focus has to be.
“We”ve got to stop the main guy,” Lee said. “(Atkins) is the man and we”ve got to contain him. I told the defense, don”t give up the big play.”
In Starkville”s 26-21 loss to Louisville last Friday, wide receiver Marquese Triplett caught five passes, but two of them went for touchdowns of 87 and 60 yards.
Lee knows Atkins can”t be allowed to hurt his defense like Triplett did.
“To give up long runs just deflates you,” Lee said. “That”s our objective this time.”
Despite losing for the second consecutive week to open the season, Lee was encouraged to see the Yellow Jackets play a more competitive game. Starkville lost to Noxubee County 30-0 in its opener.
Lee believes he has identified the strength of his team and said it”s important to take advantage of it.
“I think we did more things offensively (against Louisville),” Lee said. “We”ve got to go wide. Our little babies aren”t ready to lock and load up in the middle like that. We”ve got to play the perimeter game and put it on the safeties and corners more.”
Weems noticed the difference in Starkville from week one to week two.
He doesn”t care if the Yellow Jackets only have a roster of 50 or so players.
“Starkville is a tradition-rich program, and they are going to have athletes,” Weems said. “They have a team like us which is trying to find out what they do best. We are looking to get our best players out there when you need them.
“You want to win every game, but that”s what these non-division games are for. You want to see which kids you can count on when you get into your division.”