Sports

Meridian races by Wolves in football playoff

Who said lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot? Well, how about three times?

Forgive Coupeville High School's athletic program if it doesn't want to see Meridian High again in sub-district play. The first bolt from the Trojans came when Meridian eliminated the Coupeville soccer team from the playoffs. Next Meridian booted the Wolves' volleyball squad. And, finally, the Trojans knocked Coupeville out of the football playoffs with a 32-7 win over the Wolves at a windy, rainy Mickey Clark Field Thursday night.

The lightning strike that singed the Wolves' football team was the blistering speed of Meridian.

On offense the Trojans sliced the Wolves on a handful of big plays. Defensively, the visitors made Coupeville's offensive holes disappear quicker than a box of donuts in the office break room.

Coupeville coach Ron Bagby said, "I told my assistant coaches that I didn't know what to call. They closed so fast we couldn't get anything to go."

Bagby added, "We made some adjustments to our running game at halftime and ran some more play-action, and we ran the ball better the second half."

Meridian played a "lock-down man-to-man" coverage in the secondary, according to Bagby. That made for a long night for Coupeville quarterback Jason Bagby, the coach's son.

Jason Bagby threw four interceptions. The picks came at the Meridian 20, 10, 1, and end zone, putting a frustrating end to some promising drives.

Ron Bagby said, "Jason forced it a bit, but we were behind and trying to catch up." Coach Bagby noted that as time dwindled away and the Wolves fell farther behind that his quarterback had to take some chances to get the Wolves back in the game.

The game started promising enough when Coupeville stopped Meridian on a fourth-and-three at the Trojan 40 on a big hit from Tim Walstad. But it was three-and-out for Coupeville.

Meridian's second possession ended in a fumble and the Wolves took over at the Trojan 45. Jason Bagby hit Dalton Engle on a six-yard pass on a fourth-and-five play to keep the drive alive. He then hit Ian Smith for 10 more yards before the Wolves stalled out at the 10 and were forced to try a field goal just as the second quarter started.

Justin Adam's boot was short, and from that point on the speedy Trojans took over and never looked back.

On their first play, quarterback Zach Slesk faked a hand off then raced around left end for an 80-yard score.

On the Trojans' next possession, Slesk carried twice for 25 yards, then sophomore John Murphy sped through the Wolves on a 48-yard TD scamper and the Trojans were up 13-0.

Next the Wolves had Meridian backed up on a third-and-16, only to see Slesk hit Mitchell Tripp for a 29-yard gain. Moments later Meridian scored on a trick play. Slesk threw to his brother Tait, who threw back to Zach on a double pass. Zach Slesk took it home from the 18, and the Trojans took a 19-0 lead into halftime.

The Wolves made some noise after the break, only to have Zach Slesk make a brilliant one-handed interception in the end zone to stop the Coupeville threat.

The Wolves appeared to get a break when Zach Slesk, the Trojans' multi-talented quarterback, injured a shoulder and was out for the night with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

However, Tait, a wide receiver, stepped into his brother's spot at QB and the Meridian offense didn't skip a beat.

Coupeville finally got on the board with 3:21 left in the third quarter. The Wolves moved 60 yards behind some tough runs by Adams and four Bagby completions, including a 15-yarder to Chad Brookhouse. The score came when Bagby threaded the ball to Chase Griffin on a 16-yard strike. Adams kicked the PAT, and Meridian led 19-7.

Meridian quickly squashed any hopes of a Coupeville comeback. On consecutive plays of 10, 10, 14, and 20 yards (another Murphy TD), the Trojans tacked on six more points with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Wolves moved to the Meridian 14 and 24 in the fourth quarter, but interceptions ended those drives.

Murphy finished his and Meridian's big night with his third touchdown, a 65-yard run that left numerous Wolves' in his wake and capped a 99-yard Trojan drive.

Murphy ended with 196 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Trojans to almost 500 yards of total offense.

Meridian (7-3) will now play Tuesday in the next round of the playoffs against a yet to be determined opponent.

Coupeville ended the year 4-6.

Coach Bagby said the this year's seniors "were a fun bunch of kids." He added, "They really stuck together after going 0-10 last year. We played some really good teams tough."

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