For the second year in a row, Brandon prevented Pearl’s offense from scoring a point. Not a one. The dynamic defense, led by at least three FBS level prospects, was the driving force behind Brandon’s 10-2 win against Pearl in the “Rankin County Bowl.” Pearl managed only 88 total yards, with 26 coming in the second half.
The talented Brandon defensive line — powered by Kyle Strickland, Michael Brooks and Fletcher Adams — combined for four sacks and four tackles for a loss. It also forced Pearl sophomore quarterback Ledarius Carpenter to make quick decisions, which resulted in three interceptions.
“You have to give credit to them defensively. … Their defense won the game for them,” Pearl coach John Perry said. “They played outstanding, lights out. We couldn’t do anything to get a first down.”
Last season, Brandon shut out its rival Pearl, 35-0. This year, Pearl’s lone points of the game came on a Brandon mishap. With Brandon backed up deep in its territory on fourth down, the snap went over punter Jim Speights’ head and out the endzone for a safety.
There were multiple Brandon mishaps in the first half. The Bulldogs (2-0) lost a fumble, missed a field goal and saw their star junior quarterback Gardner Minshew struggle, managing only 6 of 17 for 64 yards at halftime. Brandon held a 3-2 lead heading into the break.
But just like it did last week against Madison Central, Brandon played considerably better in the second half. Junior running back Greg Brassfield stepped in for an injured Devin Wilson and tallied 111 total yards, including the lone touchdown of the game.
Brassfield scored on a picture-perfect 15-yard pass from Minshew that sealed the deal for the Bulldogs. Minshew finished 14 of 31 for 206 yards and a touchdown.
Brassfield said Brandon is a second-half team.
“I told our guys at halftime, ‘Since I’ve been here, our guys have played extremely hard in the second half and won a lot of games in the third and fourth quarter,'” said Brandon coach Brad Peterson. “They did it again (Friday). I thought a lot of our guys stepped up.”
Peterson said he had a bad feeling about his squad’s “Eat Dirt” rivalry game all week. He’ll take the victory, ugly final score and all.
“It was a struggle, but every game we are in is going to be a fight,” he said. “We don’t have any easy games.”