LUCEDALE – Meridian held off a furious George County rally to win 33-26 Friday night in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
George County's potent passing offense took a while to get off the ground while Meridian made plenty of noise early on offense.
Meridian led 27-0 at the 5:43 mark of the second quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Eddie Brown to Antjuan Rogers.
"I guess the situation got to my guys a little - playoff game and a big atmosphere," George County coach Matt Caldwell said. "I was worried about that coming in. Once we settled down, I thought we played pretty well. Hats off to Meridian. They're extremely talented. I'm really proud of our fight in the second half."
George County (7-5) answered with its own run of 23-0 and the Rebels had the ball inside the Meridian 20 with less than 2 minutes to go, but LaRaymond Spivery's pass fell incomplete on 4th and 3 with 1:40 remaining.
Spivery completed 31 of 43 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns, bringing to a close what was an impressive senior season. He entered the game ranked No. 1 in the state in passing yardage and fifth in the nation with 3,964 yards.
"It was a big season for me," an emotional Spivery said. "I know stat-wise, it was a big season. But I wish we could have kept going farther. Stats don't really matter to me."
George County got the ball back in its own territory with 10 seconds remaining, but the Rebels weren't able to convert on a pair of desperation passes.
Meridian (10-3) will host Pearl (9-3) in the second round of the playoffs.
"We didn't play well on special teams, made some mistakes. But it's playoffs," Meridian coach Calvin Hampton said. "This deep in the season, it's all about perseverance. We'll take that and correct it.
Meridian senior quarterback Eddie Brown completed 12 of 16 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown He had the lone Meridian score of the second half, a 10-yard touchdown run with 7:50 left to make it 33-23.
Rogers found his way into the end zone three times, adding two 3-yard touchdown runs in the first quarter.
Jaquaris Dean, who had a big 50-yard touchdown to set up Brown's fourth quarter score, also had the first score of the game for Meridian, a 1-yard touchdown run to finish the first drive of the game.
George County didn't get on the board until Spivery tossed high to Tyrese Fryfogle for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 2:24 left before the half. The extra point was blocked to set the Meridian lead at 27-6.
George County's Joseph Lawrence intercepted Brown on the first play of the following Meridian possession, setting up a 36-yard field goal by Eren Welford as time expired in the first half to make it 27-9 at the break.
George County stayed hot on offense to start the second half, finishing off a 10-play scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by freshman McKinnley Jackson run to make it 27-16.
Spivery threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to George Johnson with 9:11 remaining to cut the Meridian lead to 27-23, but Meridian had an important answer with Brown's 10-yard touchdown run.
George County's final score of the night was a 25-yard field goal by Welford with 4:56 remaining.