The Mary Persons football team finished the first half with a losing record for the first time in 13 years, but MP has a chance to right all of its wrongs with a big second half.
The 2-3 Bulldogs will begin their quest for a record fifth consecutive Region 2-AAAA championship when they visit Griffin’s Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday to open region play against Spalding. The Bulldogs won four straight region titles from 1977-1980 and again from 2015-18, but have never before captured five in a row.
The MP offense is expected to get a boost with the return from injury of starting quarterback Malikk Harris and starting running back Rico Harden. Harris injured his leg late in a Sept. 13 loss at Lovett and was sidelined during a 44-13 home defeat to Peach County on Sept. 20. Meanwhile, Harden, who rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the first two games of 2019, went down with a foot injury early in a victory over Morrow on Sept. 6 and missed all of MP’s last two games.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ defense has struggled mightily in 2019, giving up 31.4 points per game, which is six points per game higher than the previous worst scoring defense in modern program history. With 157 points allowed in just five games, MP has already given up 11 more points than the 146 points it yielded in 13 games in 2018.
After challenging MP for Region 2-AAAA supremacy in 2016, the Jaguars have struggled mightily since, winning just 8 of 25 games since the start of the 2017 season. The 1-4 Jaguars, led by first-year head coach Jeffrey Hammond, lost their first three games in 2019 by blowout margins (40-0 to AAAAA Griffin on Aug. 23, 50-14 to AAAAA Carver (Atlanta) on Aug. 30 and 35-13 to AAAA Oconee County on Sept. 6. Spalding then rebounded with a 62-34 rout over AAAA McDonough on Sept. 13 before falling to AAAAA Fayette County, coached by former Jaguars’ head man Nick Davis, 27-16 on Sept. 20.
The Bulldogs have won eight of nine previous meetings with the Jaguars, including three straight victories since the series resumed in 2016 upon Spalding joining Region 2-AAAA.
In MP’s last visit to Memorial Stadium in 2017, the Bulldogs amassed 501 total yards of offense in a 42-18 blowout win over the Jaguars. In 2018, Spalding was one of just three teams (along with Peach County and Marist) that MP was unable to beat by mercy rule. The Bulldogs prevailed 21-0 at Dan Pitts Stadium on a sloppy turf, scoring 21 points in the first 17 minutes before being held scoreless for the remaining two-and-a-half quarters thanks to a trio of MP turnovers. MP running back Quen Wilson scored two of MP’s three touchdowns while amassing a career-high 262 total yards, including 163 on the ground.