Another week brought another fresh opportunity for the winless Meridian Mustangs football team to break into the win column this season, this one their next to last chance as they hosted the Park View Patriots on a chilly Thursday evening in Falls Church. Determined to finally get the monkey off their backs, the home team got off to a fast start by marching straight down the field on its opening possession, which Alden Harrison capped off as he found the back of the end zone about halfway into the first quarter to put the Mustangs up 7-0 following a Luke Russell extra point. Things got even better for Meridian when Kyle Jinks picked off a Park View pass on their ensuing drive, and then on the very next play, Russell caught a Cruz Ruoff pass and took it the distance. A Patriots 3 and out led to a third Meridian touchdown drive in as many opportunities, this one ending in an Omar Dabbourah run with about two minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Mustangs led 20-0 after one frame (the second extra point attempt was no good), and the home crowd was buzzing with optimism.
Things would tighten up, however, as Park View answered with a score of their own early in the second, though they failed to convert on their two point try, and Meridian marched down the field once again with Dabbourah doing most of the work on a long rushing play that ended just short of the end zone. The Patriots were able to hold their own at the goal line this time and forced a turnover on downs, and then flipped the momentum with a quick touchdown on their drive to cut the deficit to 20-12, missing another two point conversion attempt. Needing to recapture their first quarter form, Meridian was able to return to the end zone on a Cruz Ruoff keeper with just under two minutes left in the half, though a second missed extra point kept it a two score game. A final first half drive by the visitors resulted in a touchdown with seconds remaining, this time with a successful conversion, and the Mustangs took a 26-20 lead into the break.
The cheerleading squad provided some ripe halftime entertainment before the second half kicked off, and after the teams traded empty possessions, Alden Harrison scored his second touchdown of the night and Cruz Ruoff ran in a successful two point conversion to extend the lead back to 14 late in the third. But Park View came right back with an eight point drive of their own, and the final frame began with the Mustangs in front by a touchdown. The Patriots then forced a Meridian punt but were unable to turn it into points, even despite a very generous pass interference call on the Mustangs on a fourth down that extended the drive. Meridian was able to run down the clock to under two minutes remaining, and then on a crucial third down at just past midfield, Harrison got just enough yardage to move the sticks and set up the victory formation.
The young team celebrated as time expired and the cheerleaders pumped up a passionate crowd, as the win marks the first for Meridian since November 5th, 2021. They will play their final regular season game against William Monroe two Fridays from now following a week off, and will look to build on the momentum as they seek back-to-back wins to close out the year.