Meridian football fans may have much to look forward to at quarterback over the next three seasons.
Not to mention at wide receiver this year.
Even though the Trojans lost their opener to 2014 Class 1A state playoff qualifier Hoquiam 36-21 on Friday, Sept. 4, Meridian provided more than a little encouragement for coach Bob Ames and his staff.
Sophomore quarterback Simon Burkett, in his first varsity start, completed 16 of 35 passes for 217 yards and a 30-yard touchdown to senior running back Nick Dritsas. Burkett suffered two interceptions, both in the second half, as he gamely fought from behind.
Burkett showed he is fortunate enough to have at least three skilled receivers —Marcus McGuinn caught six passes for 85 yards, Dritsas grabbed five for 80 and potential-laden junior Andrew Logan snagged four balls for 47 yards.
Dritsas, the team’s leading veteran, also turned in a game-high 97 yards rushing on 20 carries, with a pair of 1-yard second-effort touchdowns.
“Hard enough to win? Yes,” Ames said of his young team’s grit, which produced touchdowns three times on well-executed drives following Hoquiam touchdowns. “As young as we are, we played (tough) against a very fine group. Our kids played very hard.”
Meridian’s defense displayed no quit, but Hoquiam scored four of its five touchdowns on short-field drives following a pair of botched punts by the Trojans plus a kickoff fumble in the first half along with one of the Grizzlies’ second-half pass thefts. Gregory Dick, an impressive 6-foot-5 junior, threw touchdown passes of 25, 30 and 24 yards to junior Jerod Steen, who scored Hoquiam’s last touchdown on a 4-yard run.
“I was really nervous coming out, but about halfway through the first quarter I realized I didn’t have to be nervous,” said Burkett, who threw well enough it was difficult to believe he was a sophomore rookie. “There were situations where I could have made better reads.”
Down 14-0 at the start of the second quarter, Burkett threw a 14-yard pass to Logan on fourth-and-11 from Meridian’s 44-yard line, highlighting a 55-yard, 13-play drive. Burkett’s 30-yard scoring pass to Dritsas capped a 58-yard, seven-play drive 12 seconds before halftime, cutting the Grizzies’ lead to 27-14.
Dritsas and McGuinn gave Burkett plenty of support on a 14-play, 73-yard scoring drive, with Alan Eyoub’s third extra point kick slicing Hoquiam’s advantage to 33-21 with 9:27 left in the final period.
Meridian, though, allowed the Grizzlies to pound out 14 plays before Nazareno Mazariegos clinched the win with a 22-yard field goal with 4:12 to play.
The Trojans displayed their conditioning with an impressive 80 offensive plays for 353 yards. Hoquiam, taking advantage of Meridian’s mistakes, needed only 54 plays for 308 yards including Dick’s 16-for-33 passing for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
Hoquiam -- Artimus Johnson 16 run (Nazareno Mazariegos kick)
Hoquiam -- Jerod Steen 25 pass from Graham Dick (Mazariegos kick)
Meridian -- Nick Dritsas 1 run (Alan Eyoub kick)
Hoquiam -- Steen 30 pass from Dick (Mazariegos kick)
Hoquiam -- Steen 24 pass from Dick (kick failed)
Meridian -- Dritsas 30 pass from Simon Burkett (Eyoub kick)
Hoquiam -- Steen 4 run (run failed)
Meridian -- Dritsas 1 run (Eyoub kick)
Hoquiam -- Field goal Mazariegos 22
RUSHING — Hoquiam: Artimus Johnson 5-11, Jerod Steen 7-9, Anthony Nash 2-40, Tahj Malone 1-3, Graham Dick 5-21, Sean McAllister 1-0. Meridian: Nick Dritsas 20-97, Simon Burkett 9-(minus 15), Koby Smith 6-23, Marcus McGuinn 1-(minus 7).
PASSING — Hoquiam: Graham Dick 16-33-0-224. Meridian: Simon Burkett 16-35-2-217, Marcus McGuinn 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Hoquiam: Jerod Steen 4-85, Parker Johnson 1-4, Ryan Espedal 3-19, Jack Adams 1-8, Anthony Nash 2-44, Tahj Malone 2-18, Artimus Johnson 2-33, Jorday Dayton 1-13. Meridian: Marcus McGuinn 6-85, Nick Dritsas 5-80, Andrew Logan 4-47, Daniel Young 1-5.