MERIDIAN — For two weeks in a row, the Meridian defense has held perennial 5A Southern Idaho Conference powers’ offenses at bay.
A week after allowing just two quick strikes against Eagle, the Warriors defense was able to shut down Mountain View’s attack, not allowing the Maverick offense to gain a single point Friday in a 13-7 win.
“We’re looking great,” said senior safety Bodi Verity, whose interception late in the fourth quarter sealed the Warriors’ win. “We put so much work in, both on and off the field. We have film almost every day, we’ll have film tomorrow in the morning, and we work hard.”
Meridian (2-0) continued its hot start to the season, beating a ranked opponent for the second week in a row, the No. 4 Mavericks. Eagle had been No. 5 last week before the Warriors came away with a 36-14 win.
On Friday, Meridian did it despite its own offense being shut out in the second half.
“Our defense, you saw them, they put up a shutout and saved my (butt),” said junior Rylie Byington, whose touchdown reception with 19 seconds left in the first half proved to be the winning score. “They’re the best defense, they’re a big part of this team. The offense, when we get it going, we get it going. We’ll do it when it’s important.”
Meridian broke a scoreless tie on the first play of the second quarter when Nathan Reynolds took a short pass from Zeke Martinez and ran past the Mountain View defenders for a 54-yard touchdown reception.
A touchdown reception by Mountain View was called back on an illegal block late in the second quarter. Two plays later, Ryan Corder picked off a pass by Maverick quarterback Dawson Wahl.
However, the Mavericks fumbled on the next play and Maximus Maile recovered and returned it for a score to tie the game, Mountain View’s only score of the game.
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But that left Meridian with just enough time to march down to field before halftime. With 19 seconds left in the second quarter, Martinez found an open Byington in the middle of the field and Byington was able to run untouched into the end zone for a 35-yard score. Meridian led 13-7 going into the break.
“That’s what we work on, bouncing back from adversity,” said Byington. “That’s what Meridian is.”
Meridian started mounting a drive early in the third quarter with Byington running for 29 yards on the first play of scrimmage to get the ball to midfield and Marco Del Rio converting on a fourth and short. But Mountain View’s defense stuffed a second fourth down attempt, getting the ball back inside their own 30.
Over the next 15 minutes, neither team crossed midfield, as they both kept exchanging punts. As Mountain View’s defense made a stop, Meridian’s defense matched them drive for drive.
“That’s what you sign up for,” said Meridian coach John Zamberlin. “If you play defense, I don’t care if you get a turnover, we talk about it’s just another chance to play football, another opportunity to go make a statement about what kind of defense we are.”
With about six minutes left, Wahl found Colin Rodgers crossing the field and connected to get the ball inside the Meridian 40. But Meridian wasn’t able to make anything of it as Wahl overthrew a receiver on third down and then Landon Eason, a safety who was moved to corner due to injuries mid game, broke up a fourth down pass to give Meridian the ball back.
Mountain View’s defense gave the Maverick offense one more chance as Owen McBride ripped the ball out on a run, and the Mavericks recovered at the Meridian 47-yard line. But once again Mountain View wasn’t able to convert as a fourth down pass was tipped and then intercepted by Verity with 2:41 left on the clock, which Meridian’s offense was able to run out.
Verity is a backup player in the Warrior backfield, but with Eason moved to corner, he came in at safety and made the game-sealing play.
“It was a great feeling,” said Verity. “I’ve been mentally preparing for it for four years. I got the opportunity and took it.”