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MHS football coach Gandy introduced at press conference

Jan. 22—An introductory press conference was held at Meridian High School on Monday to introduce new Wildcats football coach Shelton Gandy. The hiring of Gandy, which MHS announced through a press release on Thursday, comes after Marcus Boyles departed in December to return to the Petal High School program following a one-season stint at Meridian that saw the Wildcats reach the postseason for the first time since 2017.

"The last year we've had great momentum, and we want someone to take it to another level," Meridian athletic director Cheyenne Trussell said of the hiring of Gandy. "He's always that personable person. He's going to go above and beyond. One thing in the interview that really caught our attention as well is that, by recruiting high school student-athletes over the last 20-odd years, he knows what it takes to get them prepared for the collegiate level."

Gandy was raised in Wayne County and played football at Wayne County High School, where he was a two-time All American running back. He played college football for the University of Southern Mississippi before he decided to get into coaching.

The Meridian coach has since gained experience coaching football at the high school, college and professional levels. His resume includes time as an assistant coach at Southern Miss, East Mississippi Community College, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Louisiana Tech University and the University of North Texas, as well as internships for the Seahawks, Saints and Chargers in the NFL.

Gandy has also coached high school football in Texas and Mississippi. His most recent head coaching experience comes from a two-season stint at Wayne County (2018-2019) in which he led the War Eagles to a combined 16-9 record and two playoff appearances.

"Coach Gandy checked all the boxes," Trussell said. "We were looking for someone who has been successful at every level."

Gandy was chosen from a pool of 35 applicants, according to Trussell. Gandy said he is excited to coach at a school with a great football tradition that has produced many good football players, and he is looking to build on the momentum the Wildcats picked up last season.

He met with the returning Meridian players following Monday's press conference to introduce himself and lay out a plan for success. He said he wants to bring home another state title, but there is a process the Wildcats will need to go through before they can achieve such an accomplishment.

"It's not just like, 'Hey, I'm the head coach now and we're going to go win a state championship,'" Gandy said. "No, there's a lot of work between here and there. ... They're going to be pushed to a point where they fail sometimes, and I'd rather them fail in the offseason than in the game."

The coach told his players in attendance that he plans on shattering some glass this year. If that is to happen, Gandy said his players will need to be unified.

"Everybody's got to know their part," Gandy said. "We've all got to fit, the coaches, me, everybody. So, it's just like being a glove. We've all got to have that right fit and know our roles, and I have no doubt that we'll be a special squad."

Meridian's newest coach said he hopes to be on campus full-time next week, but said there are still contracts to be worked out. He said that phase one of the offseason will focus on strength, followed by a skill phase, spring ball and summer preparation.

Trussell said he expects 2024 to be a special season for the Wildcats. Planned upgrades to Meridian facilities include new turf and a jumbotron in Ray Stadium, as well as a new baseball/softball complex just down the road.

Contact Christian Knox at cknox@themeridianstar.com