PINEHURST, Ga. — The year 2020 was off to a historic start for the Fullington Academy football program when the Trojans took a chance on hiring Brian Breland to become the new head coach.
“He brought me his resume and said, ‘I know I’m too young, but I’d at least like to have the chance to have an interview,’” recalled headmaster Gail Nelson. “He was absolutely the best interview that we had and I felt like he deserved a chance.”
Breland is 24-years-old and took on a 1-9 team that he was an assistant with just a year ago…and then the pandemic hit.
The Trojans had to deal with an early quarantine due to five players testing positive for the virus. They missed two weeks of competition.
They bounced back to go 4-0 in league play, winning the region title for the first time in 14 years.
“It's a really special year and not because it's my first year, but for these kids to see their growth from this summer to now. It's really amazing to see how far they've come,” said Breland.
That happiness was short lived. The following Monday, the gates were locked, the lights were off and the scoreboard was shut down for the final time of the season.
COVID-19 found a way to defeat Breland and his Trojans with another two cases of the virus, forcing them to forfeit the playoffs due to quarantine. It was a devastating blow to the school and community.
“It was one of the saddest moments that I’ve ever spent teaching or in education. The kids were heartbroken and to see those big football players just drop their heads and try to hold it in was heartbreaking,” said Nelson.
“We didn't get to play our last regular season game and send out our seniors on a winning record,” said Breland.
Unwilling to give up without a fight for his four seniors, Breland, Fullington administrators and the GAPPS pushed back the opening round game to Saturday – one day after their 14-day quarantine ends and once again giving life to their state championship dreams.
“And my team unanimously decided they wanted to go out on their own terms. They didn't want someone else to make that decision. Wherever we win or lose,” said Breland.
He says this will be a lesson to grow from and he’s excited about the years ahead, but until then he has a game to prepare for this weekend.
The game will be this Saturday at 3 p.m. and the team is taking on Flint River Academy.