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Breland, McNeel take top honors

By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
March 25, 2001
One led from the sideline, the other was a coach on the field. Both turned in fine seasons last fall and have been selected The Meridian Star's top high school football player and coach for the 2000-01 season.
Winston Academy quarterback Taylor McNeel led the Patriots to their fourth consecutive state championship this past fall to take Player of the Year honors.
Jeff Breland led the Newton County Cougars to a 10-3 record and the Class 3A South State Championship game to garner Coach of the Year honors.
McNeel was the straw that stirred the potent Winston offense week after week, year after year.
The Patriots rallied in 1998 to outscore Magnolia Heights 63-42 for the Academy AA championship.
McNeel led Winston to the 1997 Academy A title and the 1999 and 2000 AA crowns. The Patriots beat Tri-County 41-20 in 1997, Magnolia Heights 34-13 in 1999, and Bowling Green 29-12 last fall.
Rogers, who left last week to take a coaching job at the University of Tennessee at Martin, said McNeel (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) was being recruited by the U.S. Naval Academy along with a couple of Division I-AA and Division II schools, including Delta State.
McNeel completed 29 touchdown passes and had only six interceptions in 2000. He passed for 2,211 yards and rushed for 1,423.
McNeel was chosen the Offensive MVP of the Mississippi Private School Association's All-Star Game.
In more ways than one. McNeel spent spring break in Greece as part of a school trip.
Breland did a remarkable job of getting his Newton County team better week by week and turning the Cougars into a contender in Class 3A before the season was over.
The year didn't start well for the Cougars as they lost a 21-16 decision at Newton in the season opener.
The Cougars had a reason to not be very good in 2000 as they lost 17 seniors off the 1999 team that went 11-1. Another player that was being counted on heavily this fall drowned near the end of the 1999-2000 school year.
Breland is 21-4 in two years at Newton County with both teams making the state playoffs.
Prior to that, he was 17-5 in two years at Newton High School with the 1997 team making the Class 2A state playoffs. And that's playing in a division with Taylorsville, Bay Springs, and Enterprise.
Breland also has assistant coaching stops at Lake, Biloxi, and Louisville. Lake made the playoffs three of his four years with the 1988 team going 13-0 and winning the Class 2A state championship.
Two of his three seasons at Biloxi with head coach John Williams resulted in playoff appearances.
And three of his four years at Louisville ended with playoff berths. The Wildcats won state championships in 1993 and 1995.
Breland's father was the late Vonnie Mac Breland who coached at Southeast Lauderdale.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at mstamper@themeridianstar.com.