Meredith wrapping up a 'tough' career
San Clemente safety Marcus Meredith can sum up his high school career in one word: tough.
As the Tritons made a magical run and advanced to their first CIF final in 32 years, all Meredith could do was watch.
When Mike Elespuru scored on a three-yard touchdown run to put San Clemente up 13-7 over Santa Margarita in the second quarter, he stood on the Tritons sideline and cheered along with the 10,000-plus Tritons faithful on hand at Angel Stadium.
As Santa Margarita piled up the rushing yards in the second half, all Meredith could do was stand there and take it as he watched his teammates labor through a nine minute and 56 second drive put together by Santa Margarita over the third and fourth quarters.
"It was tough," Meredith said, recalling last year's PAC-5 final.
He wished he'd be able to contribute. He hoped. But he could do nothing but watch as the Tritons fell, 27-13, ending their season and hopes for a CIF title.
"It was just depressing not being able to play or just run out with the guys through the banner and stuff like that," Meredith said. "It was tough."
When the Tritons took on Mission Viejo on the last Friday of October last season, it happened again. Meredith came up from his safety spot in an attempt to stop the run, he tried to shed a block, made a plant and "it just gave out."
For the second time in as many years, Meredith tore his ACL in his right knee.
It was deflating, but all Meredith could do was look to the future. He'd been down this road before. He knew about the surgery, grueling rehab, and physical therapy to follow. Fully aware of the ups and downs that were to come, he was up for the challenge.
"I was just thinking of the future," Meredith said, "Getting back to the grind, rehabbing every single day, back on the road to recovery."
Tough is an adjective that was supposed to describe the play of Meredith, not his career. As a sophomore, he was a bright spot in the Tritons secondary.
"His sophomore year he beat out two seniors to start at strong safety for us," said San Clemente head coach Jaime Ortiz.
He was supposed to anchor the Tritons' secondary for the next three years. That run as a sophomore ended abruptly during the third game of the season. On the first defensive drive of the game against Fountain Valley, standing just outside of a pile, someone flew into his knee, resulting in a tear of his ACL for the first time.
Over the past two years, roughly 19 months have been spent rehabbing his right knee. Nearly 10 of those months came after his most recent surgery. Rehab this time around was more intense than the first time. He rehabbed four times a week and trained every day.
It was tough and there were times during rehab when Meredith would be down on himself. He credits his trainer, PJ Nestler, for helping him to get through.
"He gave me moral support," Meredith said of Nestler. "I'd ask him if I'm doing good and he'd say ‘Yeah, but you can do better.'
"He just always pushed me to do a little bit more."
Meredith pushed and pushed. He had a strong desire to get back on the field for his senior year. It's that desire that had him ready for the start of the season. Now, proclaiming he's "100%" healthy, that same desire that will carry him onto the field for the Tritons (4-1) in their Homecoming game on Friday night against Edison (3-1). It's a game that can be seen on FOX Sports West at 8:30 p.m.
The San Clemente senior has a supreme passion for the game he's been playing since he was four years old. He couldn't fathom stopping at 16 or 17.
"He easily could've quit and walked away but he wanted to finish his senior year," Ortiz said.
Added Meridith, "(I) just keep working hard and doing my best and hopefully good things will come out of it, which I'm praying they will."
He's a member of a San Clemente defense that's allowing just 7.4 points per game this season. He's one of three members of that group to intercept a pass this season, which he did in their second game of the year against Long Beach Cabrillo.
Good things are happening.