FORSYTH -- A test of adversity was expected to come eventually this season for Mary Persons, and the Bulldogs confronted it head on Friday against Westside.
After building a 16-0 lead, the Bulldogs withstood a second-half rally to come away with a 16-13 win to remain a perfect 6-0 overall and 3-0 in GHSA Region 2-AAAA play. The 6-0 start matches the best start for Mary Persons since 2003.
Im just proud of all these guys. Its been a little bit of a tough go these last few weeks. Weve had penalties. Its kind of almost been like were cursed a little bit. Im just proud of the way they responded and how they played, Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson said. We talked about not blinking and not flinching and keeping our chin up, our eyes open and just playing through it. Im just so proud of our kids.
Mary Persons moved out front thanks, once again, to Akebren Ralls, whose 60-yard punt return gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Ralls also hauled in a tipped pass near the goal line, making the catch on a pass thrown by Cal King for an 18-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. The play was set up by an 80-yard interception return by Keri Brown. Ralls opened the second half with a long kickoff return, setting up a 24-yard Dennis Miller field goal.
All week, we practiced, Do not kick the ball to No. 6; do not kick the ball to No. 6, Westside head coach Sheddrick Risper said of Ralls. And what do we do? We kick the ball to No. 6, which came back to haunt us.
The Bulldogs found the going tough against a Seminoles defensive unit that turned back two second-half scoring chances, including one at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter that would have put the game away.
Ill tell you what, there was a whole lot of pad-popping going on out there, Risper said.
With Westsides defense keeping it close, the Seminoles climbed back into the game on a 4-yard run by Gerimie Mitchell in the third quarter, a 50-yard drive in which Westside did not run a single passing play as it went to Dequavius Walker under center on the entire scoring drive.
Leading 16-7 in the fourth quarter, Mary Persons was a yard away from putting the game out of reach, but a fourth-down stop of Dee High turned the ball over to the Seminoles at their own 1.
High was limited to just two gains of more than 10 yards, finishing with 78 yards on 27 carries.
Westside didnt stay at its own doorstep long. A 48-yard pass from Eric Thomas was hauled in near midfield by Walker, eventually leading to a 15-yard touchdown run by Mitchell, cutting the Mary Persons lead to 16-13 with 3:48 to go.
After forcing a Mary Persons punt, Westside had the ball at its own 35. Westside picked up a first down, but Mary Persons stood tall defensively. Walker, whose running ability kept the Bulldogs honest most of the night, was stopped for a 5-yard loss. After a big sack by Demarcus Davis forced the Seminoles into long-yardage situations, two incomplete passes ended the Westside comeback.