Short handed Meridian getting key contributions from underclassmen with goal of making first playoff appearance since 2008


MACON (WCIA) — Paul Ralston knew his moment would come, although he didn’t expect it to happen his freshman year.

“They needed someone to fill the shoes and I guess I was the man for the job,” Ralston said about his early varsity playing time.

The Hawks (3-2) are missing five of their starters this season due to injuries, meaning several underclassmen have had to step up, including Ralston. This month, the 15-year old offensive lineman started in his first varsity game against St. Teresa, the No. 1 Class 2A team in the state.

“It was definitely nerve racking but I’ve had a lot of experience playing against older guys, and I was ready for it,” he said.

“I knew for a long time Paul was going to be a good player when he got to high school,” Meridian head coach Micah Sheppard said about his freshman lineman. “He does everything that he can to make himself better and put himself in the position he’s in and he’s earned it.”

Ralston and the Hawks lost big to the Bulldogs but Sheppard is still confident his group can continue to have success. They’re just two wins away from reaching playoff eligibility for the first time since 2008.

“We’re in a very tough conference (Central Illinois Conference) and even though were down a little bit we’re still excited about the opportunity to be able to compete,” Sheppard said.

The Hawks are coming off a forfeit win last week after Sullivan-Okaw Valley canceled the rest of its varsity season earlier this month. Sheppard said the bye week of sorts helped his team get healthy, adding he could get a few injured players back on the field in the Friday Football Fever Spotlight Game of the Week at Shelbyville.

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