December 5, 2011
That's my view…
By Carey Meitzler
I just got back from Jackson…the second time in two days. First one was Sunday after sleeping over after the game. The second
trip was for business and it proved to be different than the first. Time on the road is great to allow one to reminisce about a lot of
things good and bad. Honestly, I like driving, thinking, and talking while on the road. It helps me with my view of things.
The Picayune Maroon Tide captured the 2011 Class 5A Championship. What an accomplishment! I was blessed to be able to
observe it from many angles (some too high and steep for my fear of heights) and others from former players, fans, and friends
both here and elsewhere. Immediately after the game, it became an emotional box high above the field at Mississippi Veterans
Memorial Stadium for a couple of guys. My nephew Todd Meitzler, who just a few weeks ago I asked to fill in for color
commentator Tommy Upton at Gautier and again at Pascagoula, and myself both, let our emotions get the best of us. We love
our sports, especially Maroon Tide, and it is part of who we are and always will be I guess. My mother Lois is the blame for it.
For Todd, who played on Calvin Triplett's first team in 1978, it was special. Todd and Coach Dodd Lee are very good friends
as well as other members of Coach Lee's staff. Todd and I have been talking for years that sooner or later the stars would align,
the chips would fall right, we would get a few breaks, etc…basically it would happen for Dodd and the Maroon Tide. When the
game was over, Todd and I were high-fiving each other while watching the post-game activities take place way down below on
the field. I know that Todd has lived and died with me on every snap when my oldest Dale played for the Maroon Tide and now,
Todd's son Chase just started his journey this year as a seventh grader. I hope they have the chance to make the memories we
For me, I was happy for Dodd and a lot of people (coaches) who Dale had played for during his four years in the program. Brian
Edwards and Gen Breland have been with Dodd every year that he has been the head coach and I thought about all the heartache
those three had endured. During our post-game interview, I shed some tears when Dodd said “Right now, I am just thinking about
all those kids that worked so hard that just didn't quite get here and I hope they can enjoy this as much as we are.” As soon as
Dodd's interview concluded, I turned around and Dale was standing there behind me in the press box. We embraced and were
both so happy for what we had just witnessed with Dodd and the entire program finally getting its time to be on top as a
championship program after a 25 year wait. When Dale was senior, he officiated PYAA football games and often told me this
group is loaded with good players and someday they'll probably win it all. He was right and we were both elated that we had a
chance to see it.
The first trip home on Sunday, I thought about all the close misses, the injuries, the bad bounces, dreadful officials' calls, and to
finally not have to think about those was refreshing. But first, I thought about the sick feeling I had riding home from Vancleave
last year with Billy Martin as we discussed how injuries had decimated a team in just three short weeks. I thought about Chris
Stewart and Scott Hillery who were oh so close in 2003. I thought about Dale's senior year in 2006 at Wayne County and how
a play here or there could have changed that game. Russell Mitchell and Cody Stogner teams who almost made it. Then it hit me
about the time I drove by Mount Olive, let that history die. Picayune has put all of those things in the deep freeze.
My thoughts turned to this year. The look in the eyes of Troy Egana, Ken Breland, and Cody Smith before the Gulfport game.
The comeback at Gautier when Todd kept telling me on break that “I'm just bad luck.” Dodd telling me the next week in pre-game
interview that he would have caught a bus out of Gautier with 5 minutes to play if he could have found one. Joey Reynolds' wink
as they left the locker room to take the field at Long Beach. The dominating first half at Long Beach. The two great defensive
stands at Pascagoula in the second round. The people standing and sitting in line for South State tickets at 7:00am. Jeffrey
Stewart and Sam Watts putting a pig on a fire at about the same hour in the field just outside the stadium. Manning “Skin” Jones
and Ricky “Stevie” Jones setting up their tent at 7:30am. (The Stevie is a personal joke between me, Skin, and Ricky). The
crowd for South State. Talking with Donnie Bond, Bob Bounds, and Jerel Myers (members of '86 team) on the track in pre-
game and sensing they would suit up if they were allowed to do so. The tailgate gathering in the parking lot outside of the
stadium in Jackson. Ken Breland's interception return that finally ended when it appeared he was saying, “I've ran long enough.....
it's time to get out of bounds.” The Maroon Nation shouting in unison below us during the waning moments of the fourth quarter
“Roll Tide Roll!”. And on and on and on. Man, what a great time I've had taking it all in.
On the trip home today, I had two phone conversations with two very close friends. The first one was with Robbie Cox, a teammate
of mine at PMHS during the late 70s. Robbie, who resides in Panama City Beach, FL., was a gifted three-sport athlete and a scholar
as well. Robbie has been following the Maroon Tide on the website for years and has really been tuned into the Tide's run the past few
weeks. I had talked to him on Friday and he was so pumped about the upcoming game. I called him to check in and talk about the
game. Robbie, as he always does, answered, “Heeeey, what's happening?” We immediately start talking about the game and Robbie
said, “Man, I really enjoyed the broadcast. I was a little worried in the third quarter, but man what a finish.” Robbie paused for a few
seconds and said, “Carey, I hope the people in Picayune really appreciate and enjoy what the team accomplished. I've been around
sports my whole life and when you see a team go to the highest point they can, it is so special. I've watched so many teams down
here that were really, really talented and not make it all the way.” I replied, “Rob, I think they do.” He said, "Man, I hope so."
The other conversation was with one of my favorite sports buddies, Dennis Devore. "Roadie" and I have watched a lot of games
at all levels and we generally have a conversation or two every week during each Maroon Tide sports season. Dennis does not
always come across to others in expressing his views, but he and I are always very candid with each other and thus the value of
our friendship. Dennis said a few things that seemed to really hit home. Dennis stated, “The whole goal in any sport is to reach the
ultimate height of whatever that is. For Picayune, it is the State Championship. So when you commit yourself, give it all you have
and reach the top, you need to stop for a moment and ask yourself was it all worth it? Of course it is, but you have think about
what you had to do to get to the top to appreciate it the most.”
Dennis said he really enjoyed the game and the atmosphere. He said, “Here we are standing, hollering, cheering with a whole bunch
of people, some we know, some we didn't, but each one of us had one common thing going on. We wanted our team, the team that
represents our community, to be the best. That's why I like small town sports. It's about the community and the kids that we know
and pull for. The front of the jersey says Picayune. That's who they and we are."
After the call with Dennis ended, I thought about what had happened to make dreams come true for Coach Lee, his staff, the players,
and in the end the whole Maroon Tide Nation. As stated earlier, when it happens, it is special. As I began to ponder all of the the
reasons I thought contributed to the final outcome for this team, five things stood out to me.
First, you have to have a belief system. Believe in what you are doing and those around you doing it with you. This was a team in the
utmost sense of the word. Solid in so many areas, but not a powerhouse loaded with speed and size. But like most all of Dodd's
teams, they believe they can win each and every time they take the field. Tommy Upton has said it so many times this year about
how you don't have to worry about Dodd having his team ready. Having seen it as a parent, a fan, and a broadcaster, Tommy's
right on. MTXE means something. It's not just a sign, it is a way of preparing and playing. Dodd has instilled a system, a formula
you may call it that consists pounding away, wearing down not only the physical part of the opponent, but the mental will of the
opponent. Run first, throw when you have to and more importantly, when they aren't expecting it. Defensively, bring pressure.
Make things chaotic for the other team. Everyone meet at the football and arrive in a bad mood. These guys bought in and had
enough talent to go all the way. But first, and foremost, they believed they could win playing this style of ball. Major. Major.
Second, conditioning. This group paid the price in the offseason. It showed early in the season and again on Saturday. Just look at
the fourth quarters when they took over because of it. Gulfport, Petal, and Starkville were three very good teams and the Maroon
Tide took over in the last stanza in each of those games. In other games, it showed as well. Dodd said it from the first week right
on through Saturday. "This team worked so hard and have been such a joy to be around." One other thing, I believe was important
was the getting the name on their jersey for reaching a certain, higher than normal number of workouts. It was a measurement.
Third, injuries or lack of them. Injuries can come at any time, but are less likely when you are in ‘condition' (shape). The Maroon
Tide had a few guys miss a game or two, but unlike years past, this group stayed healthy and that's a credit to them and the
coaches. I remember Tommy saying last year in the final weeks, “It doesn't matter how good they are if they can't play, it doesn't
matter. Carey, we have a lot of starters on the sideline tonight.”
Fourth, breaks. Some people say, you have to be good, but you have to be lucky. I beg to differ to a degree. Great players make
great plays. They create “breaks” because they are disciplined and coached to do things a certain way. If you were at all 15 games,
you know what I mean. We made "breaks". Call it luck if you wish. We can agree to disagree on that one all the time.
Fifth, leadership and chemistry. This group of seniors led by example. They were all in every snap. Cody Smith and Troy Egana forgot
they were too small. They played with a chip on their shoulder and that commitment carried over. Chad Mitchell moved back to Picayune
and became a force on the defensive line. Dalvin Acker, Ken Breland, and Nolan Fletcher made plays because they knew they had to.
Marvin Van Buren did his part and had a big catch in the ‘Goula playoff game. Justin Mark made big plays at wide receiver and special
teams. Dereonte Magee moved from defensive back and rushed for nearly 2,000 yards. He like Troy and Cody, had something to prove
to himself, his coaches, and his opponents. And he did. Dalton O'Meara became a weapon with his placekicking and hit some clutch
kicks. Remember the game winner at Petal and the two field goals at 'Goula?. This team had chemistry in the players and the coaches.
Give Dodd a lot of credit for putting together a great staff over the years. Gen Breland, Brian Edwards,Walt Esslinger…they have been
coaching a long time and know a lot about coaching football and even more about coaching young men. The young guns, as I like to call
them; Russell Mitchell, Cody Stogner, and John Feaster. They played for Dodd and all bring their own distinct skills and abilities to the
table. Although not full-time, Frank Feeley and Micah Hickman have important roles.
I think that with this group of coaches, Dodd has finally been able to be a head coach and be able to give his insight and direction to the
whole team without having to focus on one unit during a game. He said it at the end of the game on Saturday about them being great
coaches and fine men. They are. The chemistry they have is so, so important. They trust each other and they know what the expectations
are each and every day.
So before everyone gets to thinking about next year and the high expectations that winning it all this year has stirred, hold on. Push aside
the thoughts about having a lot of the starters back and a repeat trip to Jackson. I urge you to take a moment and enjoy this one for we
have no guarantee of when it will happen again. Next year? Maybe. Another 25 year wait? Maybe. Regardless, remember that is a special
time for everyone. Give thanks to God for the experience. I have and that's my view.