This is definitely a big game, with two undefeated 6A teams. Both teams had an off week last week, giving each team an extra week to prepare. The team that wins this game will have a huge advantage in winning the division. Most of the pre-season polls had Meridian and Natchez as the top two teams in the division.
Keys to Victory: For Natchez, the key to victory will be to have no turnovers. Meridian has a very opportunistic defense which is led by its pass rush of defensive linemen, Jacoby Eason, Rickey Holt and Lauren Jackson.
Natchez is led by its four year starting quarterback, Javon Washington. Washington has passed for 6,396 yards and 59 touchdowns in his career, with 800 yards and 6 touchdowns coming so far this season. Washington has also thrown 41 interceptions in his career. He needs to make good decisions in order to upset Meridian.
On Defense, Natchez is led by three very talented players in safety Brian Isaac, defensive tackle, Justin Hamilton and linebacker Raymond Williams. Hamilton and Williams will both need to stop the run Friday night, while Isaac will need to contain Antoinne Atkins and the Meridian passing game.
For Meridian, the Wildcats will need to establish the run early and become more balanced. Meridian needs to throw the ball at least 15 times and run the ball the rest. The Running game will be led by Kenya Roberts and Michael Hubbard. On Defense, as mentioned before the Wildcat defense will need to rush the passer effectively. If the pass rush is effective, Washington will have to scramble out of the pocket and make plays with his feet.
Match ups to Watch: The match up that I will watch for in this game will be the play of the quarterbacks between Javon Washington and Antoinne Atkins. The quarterback who has the most total yardage and the fewest turnovers, his team will win the game. Atkins has rushed for 551 yards this year, but he also has a strong arm and makes plays through the air. The next match-up to watch for is in the trenches with the Natchez offensive line VS the Meridian defensive line. Each team will need to protect the quarterback in order to be successful. However, Washington and Atkins are fast and can make plays when the pocket breaks down. Each team's defense will need to have a "spy" to contain the quarterback's speed.
Last Year's Score: Meridian won the game 35-0, but expect this year's game will be much closer.
Natchez has wins over Jefferson County (41-14), Wilkinson County (34-7), Ferriday (Lou.) (14-0), and Warren Central (29-10). Meridian has beaten West Lauderdale (28-7), Wayne County (26-6), Starkville (14-7), and Quitman (20-0).
Prediction: Meridian will win a close one. Meridian 28 Natchez 21