Today's interviewee is Union County coach Brian Allison, whose team is 9-0 and ranked No. 8 in Class AA entering its game tonight against No. 5 Rabun County (9-0). Allison is 116-69 in 18 seasons at his alma mater. Union County is trying to break a five-game losing streak against Rabun and win its first region title since 1973.
Brian Allison, Union County head coach
1. Has Union-Rabun become a big rivalry, or do you feel Union needs to beat them to take it to that next level? How would you describe the rivalry? "We've been playing them even when I was in school in the early 1980s, so I know that it's been a constant through the course of Union County football and Rabun County football. Rabun County holds the edge. They have more wins. They've had some really good mountain football teams and teams in the state. I've never thought of it as a true rivalry because we're not side by side. It's not like us and Fannin County. Blairsville and Blue Ridge are 20 minutes apart. Unfortunately for us, Rabun has beaten us the last five times. We'd like to see that turn around. We need to win one. That would make it a true rivalry."
2. You returned in 2008 (after five years at Winder-Barrow) and got the program competitive right away. It took a few years, but Union is consistently winning eight or nine games now. What do you feel you and your staff did to take that extra step? How much of it was developing an offensive identity that consistently produces some of the state's leading passing offenses? "I really believe it has more to do with the players that have come through over course of the last six-seven years. When I first got here, we had Blake Gowder [4,002 career receiving yards] and Colt Owenby [quarterback] and went 5-5 the first year, then 6-4. Then we went through a stretch where we were down player-wise. Then we had Joe Mancuso [8,190 career passing yards], and he comes in and adds to the group we already had and makes a difference. Then we had Cole Wright and then Pierson [Allison, Brian's son]. We've had good quarterbacks and receivers and linemen supporting those players. So the short answer is players. That's one. And two is that we've been fortunate with me and both coordinators being here for 12 years. Howard McCombs is the offensive coordinator. Robby Roxbury is the defensive coordinator. It goes back to consistency. We've got quarterbacks running this system or a version of it in the sixth grade."
3. Your son is having another big year at QB. What's it like coaching your son? [Pierson Allison has thrown for 2,361 yards, seventh-most in the state.] "It's been a super experience. It's somewhat tough at times, but I love walking out on the practice field every day and he's out there, and he and other guys are joking around, having fun throwing and catching. It's a pleasure seeing that. Early on, he was more of a basketball guy. The football has come over the last two, three years. It's been a great experience. Hopefully we can enjoy this for a long time."
4. You're coaching at your alma mater. Close to one in 10 Georgia football teams are coached by alumni. Why do you think that is, and why did you go back home again? "One of the reasons that I came back is because I wanted to be a factor in these kids' lives at Union County High School. I wanted to be a factor because I had been there. I went through it. I understand what they're going through. Living in the mountains is different than being in Atlanta or even in Gainesville. Blairsville is a small community. The other thing is that when you coach at a place you've played, you put just a little more into what you're doing. You take just a little more pride because you want to see that place be successful."
Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.