Every community, town or city is different and sometimes communities can be right next door, but might as well be miles apart when you talk about economics, branding, the people and more.
Such is the case in Central Mississippi as only 24 miles separate Madison, MS from Brandon, MS, but the two might as well be worlds apart. A ride down Highway 463 or Madison Avenue and quickly you notice the brick facades, restaurants, shopping and more. From historical Annandale Golf Course, to Reunion and beyond – Madison has set the standard and raised the bar as far as town and business development.
Twenty four miles away over in Rankin County sets the historic Brandon square that houses the Rankin County courthouse and not too far off the track is older beautiful homes, while new neighborhoods continue to be constructed.
The Highway 80 corridor through Brandon continues to boom, along with Highway 18 as talks of a new multi sports facility as well as a state of the art Amphitheater are in the works for the area, as well as a brand new state of the art football stadium.
Madison prides itself as “Madison – the City”, while one ride through down town Brandon and you notice flags plastered on every light poll that read “Brandon Bulldogs”. While both communities are different in many ways, there is one thing that brings them into the same circle and that’s the passion and love they both have for high school football and their teams. Both teams are supported by monster booster clubs in Madison’s Big Blue and Brandon’s BClub; both teams have had immense success on the field and both teams have sent several players on to play big time college football.
Madison Central and Brandon have played 12 times since Madison opened their doors in 1991 – with both teams winning six apiece and both teams have proudly stuck their chests out at times proclaiming they were the team and program of Central Mississippi and the metro.
From 2008 to 2012, Madison Central played in five straight north state championships, just falling short of state championship appearances. Meanwhile over in Brandon, a football powerhouse was being rebuilt from the ground up, where the Bulldogs themselves reeled off a 52-18 record over five seasons, which included a state championship appearance, two straight region crowns and late November runs as a power player in south 6A.
The rivalry was reborn between these two in 2013 as the visiting team has now won both meetings – Brandon 21-14 in 2013 and Madison just last year, oddly again 21-14 over at Louis Gene Strickland Field.
This metro area clash of Titans resumes this week, but on a rare Saturday night over off Highland Colony Parkway for all the world to see as “one town, one team, one dream” again clashes with “Jaguar Pride” and this year there’s a plot twist as these two are now tied together by more than just football – now it’s a family affair.
Back in December, then Brandon head football coach and athletics director Brad Peterson decided to step down and take the same position 24 miles away at Madison as then football coach Bobby Hall decided to step down. Oddly enough, Peterson played for and was under the tutelage of Hall early in his career. Peterson and Madison quickly stated they wanted to regain the form that made Madison one of the states premiere programs.
Meanwhile over in Brandon, while anytime you lose your football coach, it feels like a shot in the gut, the town, people and booster club regrouped quickly and hired another up and coming coach who happens to carry the same name as the former – Peterson.
Up and coming head football coach Tyler Peterson took the job at Brandon and instantly people started to point to this week’s matchup, back in late January.
The Peterson name in Mississippi high school football has become one of the richest in recent memory as both Brad and Tyler (cousins), have traveled different roads to success. “Brad” Peterson has multiple state championships at multiple stops along the way and helped build Brandon into what it is today; while “Tyler” Peterson won a state championship himself at Noxapater in 2011, as well as helped revive programs like Kosciusko and Northwest Rankin, before taking over at Brandon.
The offseason buzz was can “Brad” revive Madison as a state power and can “Tyler” continue the success that Brandon has become accustomed to having? Both coaches answered the call this past Friday as Madison defeated Meridian 24-18, and Brandon knocked off coast power Ocean Springs 27-24.
Now the focus shifts onto each other for this one week and while this game is hardly a “game changer” for either team’s 2015 season, it will be a big deal for a week. Both teams run similar styles – both offensively and defensively, both teams are littered with coaches that are friends and former collogues and know each other well and both teams have immense respect for the other.
But all that aside, a football game still must be played and for a moment, emotions will be tough. One cousin will look across the field and see the other cousin as family is put aside for those few hours.
One group of players will glance to the other sideline and see their former coach with another group of young men, while that coach and his new team will look back across and see a team that has had more success than they have had over the last few years.
Coaches will game plan this week to outthink the other staff as both staffs know the tendencies to some degree of the others, as a “Searching for Bobby Fischer” Chess game will take place between the headsets.
But – at the end of the day, what the players do between the lines will ultimately decide who gets a leg up in this Metro Area Mega Series. If history is our guide it will come down to one or two plays or two or three minutes where all the marbles are on the line – and at that moment, one team will get the advantage to eventually become the victor.
Both schools agreed to move the game to Saturday night because this has become that big of a game in Central Mississippi and honestly deserves a stage of its own. Jaguar Stadium will be packed deep this coming Saturday night as Brandon makes the short trip to Madison and what a game it should be. Passion and emotion collide for two hours this Saturday night off the Parkway, and the only thing we know is that a Peterson will in fact come out the victor in Peterson Bowl I.
Two great teams, two great towns, two great programs, two great head football coaches and bragging rights on the line – this is what it’s all about.