Regardless of the outcome, Mary Persons will make history on Friday when it plays its first-ever opponent from the biggest classification in the state, Class AAAAAAA.
“It will be a good challenge for us,” said MP coach Brian Nelson. “I’m kind of excited about it. Maybe way back we did, but I’m not sure we’ve ever played anyone in the highest classification in the state. It’s a good measuring stick to see where we’re at.”
Newnan High has about 2,300 students, about 1,000 more than Mary Persons.
With MP competing in a tough new region, the Newnan game wasn’t something Nelson set out to make happen. It was a desperate improvise forced this summer when Dougherty County schools postponed their seasons, leaving MP with an open home date. Nelson is friends with Newnan coach Chip Walker, a former MP assistant, and the rest is history. While it was not the original plan, Nelson said he’s pumped that it’s happening now. That’s probably more true after MP opened the season playing two weaker foes that didn’t test the young Bulldogs.
MP hopes to get some key players back for Friday’s big game. Starting linebacker Andrew Lackley and center Austin Starr are expected to return from a healthy quarantine forced upon them by an alleged COVID exposure. Nelson began personal workouts with the boys to fulfill the GHSA’s 5-day heat acclimation rule, which expires at the end of the month anyway but has somehow stayed in force despite much cooler weather.
Senior running back William Stewart (foot) and defensive back Adrian Hughley (concussion) will try to come back from an injuries suffered in the opener. Freshman Duke Watson, who led the MP rushing attack against McDonough, is out due to yet another “COVID exposure”.
Nelson said he’s watched a lot of Newnan tape and the Cougars (2-0) are definitely bigger than MP. While Newnan was 6-5 last year, Walker is in his fourth year at Newnan so this is the first team he’s had all the players since they were freshmen.
“He feels good about this year’s team,” said Nelson. “Their quarterback and running back are both good and they’re big on both lines. Their skill players have good length and size. They have a definite size advantage.”
Nelson said Walker, the son of former MP mentor Rodney Walker, has won everywhere he’s been, including a commanding run at Sandy Creek. Walker walloped his old team 28-6 last Friday. The week prior, the Cougars whipped Whitewater 42-17.
Against Sandy Creek, senior quarterback Michael Maginnis, a Samford commit, had 142 yards passing and a TD.
Newnan’s starting tailback Bryson Moss #21 is going to Eastern Michigan. Cougar receiver Joshua Harris is being recruited and has an offer from Air Force. Linebacker Steven Carter is committed to play at Army. Receiver Reif Brass just got offered by Huntington College.
Nelson said he expects Friday’s game will be a sellout with COVID restricting MP home games to about half of capacity.
“There will probably be some upset people because they won’t be able to get in there,” said Nelson. “Newnan is a good team that’s gonna win a lot of games. I’m just excited to play a school from the biggest classification in the state.”
See a Q and A with the Newnan football writer on page 2C.