Jackets take aim at post-season again

With the opportunity to achieve accomplishments that have not happened in Meridian for decades, the 2017 Yellowjacket football team took the field for the first time Monday as programs around the state began to prepare the upcoming high school football season.

Looking for their third consecutive playoff berth for the first time since 1984 and their third straight winning record for the first time since 2002, the Jackets will aim at lofty goals with three new coaches joining Meridian head coach Chris Roberts’ staff.

Joining Roberts, Ryan Moreau and Joe O’Hearn, Charlie Gomez will take over as the defensive coordinator and coach the secondary, Kory Toney will coach linebackers and assist with the offensive line, and retired former Meridian head coach Russell Roberts returns to assist his son by coaching the offensive and defensive lines.

“My father has been semi-retired for the past two years so he could come to our games,” said Chris Roberts, entering his fourth season at Meridian. “So I talked him into coming parttime for football season. It will be a little weird considering I played for him and worked under him for 12 years.

“Coach Gomez has coached a lot of places, but he was out of coaching last year after working at Perrin-Whitt in 2015-16. He has a lot of experience and knowledge and is very enthusiastic.

“Coach Toney comes to us from Giddings. Kory graduated from Alvarado and is a coach’s kid, so he knows the business.

“I think we did well with the new staff members. I think that everyone brings something new to the table.”

With the coaching staff questions answered, the Jackets turned their attention to the football field Monday with an emphasis on conditioning while working out in shorts, shirts and helmets. The coaches have their players on a normal practice routine, working on offensive individual, group and team, then defensive individual, group and team before fitting in some special team work.

“The big focus will be on offensive and defensive installations,” Roberts said. “The defense is totally new and the offense will look a little different in some ways, so the non-padded days will be a lot of learning.”

The coaching staff will maintain that routine until the put on the pads for the first time this Friday. Then the Jackets will start getting ready for their first scrimmage at Santo at 6 p.m. Aug.

18. After hosting DeLeon for a scrimmage Aug. 24, the Jackets will open the 2017 season at home against Waco Reicher Sept. 1.

“I thought that the first day went well,” Roberts said. “We had 31 kids come out, which is actually a few more than expected. There may be one or two more coming, but for the most part everyone that we were expecting made it.

“I like the energy and enthusiasm that we showed today and looking for more to come.”

But while Meridian hopes to challenge a rebuilt Bremond for the District 10-2A, Division II title, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football picked the Jackets to finish fourth to claim the district last playoff berth.

“I was a little disappointed being picked fourth, but that would get us into the playoffs, which is goal number one,” Roberts said. “But again, a fourth seed in the playoffs probably means a tougher first round draw. I don’t think that second is out of the question.”

The three-time defending state champion Bremond Tigers remain the favorite, but Hubbard and Chilton leap-frogged last year’s runner-up Meridian in the predictions.

“Bremond lost a lot but still have a ton coming back,” Roberts said. “I think that the rest of us all graduated a lot and will be pretty even.”

With that said, the Jackets will have four-year starting quarterback John Anderson returning after passing for 1,896 yards, rushing for 545 yards and accounting for 29 total touchdowns.

“John has come a long way since having to start as freshman,” Roberts said. “I think that we still have some good talent around him that we can still be explosive.”

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