By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Officially, Union's 21-7 win against Lake last year secured the Division 5-2A championship. Unofficially, it also gave the Yellowjackets bragging rights in the first Breland Bowl matchup between head coaching brothers Brad and Jeff Breland.
Tonight, the two schools meet for a 7 p.m. showdown in Union with the exact same stakes at play. And that is the most important thing, a chance to seize control of the division, not the family ties surrounding the game.
“It's a lot bigger than two brothers playing, and really, we're not even playing,” Brad Breland said. “It's more about a chance at a division title and what these kids on both sides have worked for, for a year, to play for a division title and that's more what it's about than anything.”
“It should be a pretty good game, I think.”
Still, Union's 11th-year head coach admits to enjoying those bragging rights a few times over the course of the past year over Lake's second-year head coach, who also served successful stints at the helm of Newton High School and Newton County.
However, extending that family dominance another year might be difficult as the Hornets enter 6-1 and 1-0 in the division. Union, which has won four in a row against Lake, is solid as well, also unbeaten at 2-0 in the division, while fashioning a 6-2 overall mark. Lake also has one distinct advantage against the Yellowjackets, Brad Breland explained.
“I think we're both evenly matched, it's just going to come down to who makes plays and tackles and minimizes mistakes,” he said. “We had the upper hand last year because we were more experienced and this year they have a little more experience.”
The Hornets average more than 270 yards rushing per game, paced by John Spivey and Chris Johnson, each churning out close to 100 yards per game. Johnson, a freshman, has scored nine touchdowns.
Union's equalizer may be quarterback Jesse Gill. The senior is a nifty runner, giving the Yellowjackets a home run threat on every snap. That has been a huge help for Union, although Breland thinks they are rounding into form just in time for a run toward the postseason.
“He makes a lot of people look good,” he said. “He makes a play when there's not much blocked and he makes a play when it's not a real good call. He can turn something bad into something good in a hurry.
“I think we've gotten better the past couple of weeks. Three our of the past four weeks we've played pretty well. I think our offensive line is getting better and I hope we're gelling at the right time.”
One thing for certain is that with one brother on the Lake sideline calling the shots and another on the Union sideline doing the same, there won't be many secrets tonight.
“Everything they do is really sound, so we're going to have to be where we're supposed to be and know our responsibility and make our reads,” Brad Breland said. “We know pretty much what we're going to do and they know pretty much what we're going to do.”