By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
For the second straight year, Union High School has won 10 games. The Yellowjackets are in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs for the third straight season.
And yet nobody expected Union to be here – hosting Mize for a 7 p.m. kickoff today – with a chance to equal last year's school record for wins in a season with 11.
“I can't tell you how proud I am of this team,” Union coach Brad Breland said after last week's postseason-opening 32-17 win against Richton. “To lose all the seniors we lost last year, nobody but us expected us to be right here. I'm tickled to death for them. They worked hard and deserve every bit of it.”
In order to equal that number, the 10-2 Yellowjackets must first deal with 9-2 Mize. And the Bulldogs bring a lot of speed with them.
“They've got a lot of speed,” Breland said. “They have three or four guys that run real well. They're real solid on defense. They're sound just all round but they've got three or four guys that can hard to handle when they get the ball in their hands.”
While Mize has multiple weapons, the Bulldogs' offensive gameplan centers around sophomore quarterback Dejerik Bryant.
“It all starts with their quarterback,” Breland added. “He's a real good athlete and he makes them go. Rolling out, buying some pass protection time and then hitting a receiver deep, so we're going to have to try and hem that quarterback up and keep pressure on him.”
Union counters with a dangerous quarterback of its own in senior Jesse Gill. The dual-threat signal-caller showed off that versatility last week, completing 4-of-5 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, 77 yards to Tre Bogan. Gill also rushed for 39 yards on 17 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown that sealed the win as he carried multiple Rebels into the end zone.
In addition to Gill and Bogan leading the offense, Union also forced Richton into mistakes defensively, intercepting three passes including an early pick-6 from Bogan. Breland would be ecstatic with a repeat performance, although there was room for improvement.
“Jesse's going to have to try and keep it going and throw in a big play or two, maybe get something on defense like we did and you never know what might happen,” he said. “That's exactly what we're looking for.
“Offensively, we're going to have to block better is the main thing. They switched defenses up and confused us a little bit. But we've got to be able to execute against whoever or any kind of defense. We have to block better and that's the main thing.”