Stakes are More Than Dirt for Brandon – Pearl This Week

Pearl - Brandon tie it on for the 66th time this Friday night. Photo courtesy of Jerad Thomas

This Friday night at 7 p.m. Brandon and Pearl will renew their high school football rivalry at Ray Rogers Stadium in Pearl as the Bulldogs and Pirates will square off for the 66th time.

Brandon leads the series 41-23-1 and has won four straight in the series making the last 1,460 days tough on their Rankin County neighbors.

“Eat Dirt” is a phrase the loser has to hear the entire next year and honestly, I have no idea still where this term came from and neither did former Brandon head football coach Brad Peterson. “I really don’t know where the ‘Eat Dirt’ stuff came from,” Peterson said, “I have heard about a thousand stories of why they say it, and I really don’t know where it came from.”

John Perry has the Pirates on a five game winning streak and on the cusp of a region championship – photo courtesy of Gregg Flynn

Regardless of where it comes from, it is what the loser has to put up with for 365 days; but this year the stakes are higher and much more than dirt is on the line.

Brandon is on a seven game winning streak and is 9-2 on the year and 6-0 in the region; while Pearl is on a five game winning streak and coming into this ballgame at 7-3 overall and 5-1 in region play.

For the first time in recent memory, these two will tie it on in a  “winner take all” in Region 3-6A with the winner winning the region crown and garnering bragging rights in one of the biggest rivalry’s in the state of Mississippi.

“This game being at the end of the schedule, with the implications it has tied to it hasn’t been seen in probably 25 years,” said Pearl head football coach John Perry. “This will be standing room only for a region championship and when you throw in all the implications, this should be fun.”

Brandon has already locked up a first round home game in the 6A playoffs, which is set to start next week and Pearl can do the same with a win; however if Brandon does win Friday, it would turn into a math problem to see where Pearl would play next week as they would likely be in a three way tie for second place with Petal and Meridian in the region.

“To have this thing shake out the way it has, you couldn’t draw it up any better than this,” said Brandon head football coach and athletics director Tyler Peterson. “When you’re rival is good, and you’ve had a good season yourself, it just makes everyone in the rival that much better.”

Brandon is gunning for their fourth straight regional championship - photo courtesy of the clarionledger.com
Brandon is gunning for their fourth straight regional championship – photo courtesy of the clarionledger.com

And better these two teams are as both are near the top in Mississippi 6A football in scoring the football and playing great defense. Both teams are around the 36 points per game on offense and both teams are allowing around 16 points per game on defense.

But still when you break it down even more, there is so much on the line for both on Friday.

For Brandon, a team who was ranked preseason number one in the state, they are trying to win a fifth straight game in this series and send their seniors out never having a loss to their rival; they are also trying to garner their fourth straight Region 3 title and show they are the team to beat in South 6A come next week.

For Pearl, it’s about showing the state of Mississippi that they have not only arrived on the 6A scene, but are a force to be reckoned with. After a bumpy start in 6A last year, the Pirates are now one of the hottest teams in the state of Mississippi and are a win away from hoisting a regional trophy.

A Pirate win would wipe away four years of frustration from their Highway 80 rivals and give them the inside track to Starkville, MS and the State Championship.

You honestly cannot quantify what all is on the line come Friday night over in Pearl, but one thing is for sure – it will be jam packed, wall to wall emotion and someone is eating dirt and the other is going to be a champion.

And with the way the MHSAA playoff structure is set up, this could be the first of two meetings between these two this month and I’m sure everyone on Highway 80 expects that.

This is Brandon and Pearl – it’s supposed to be this way.