MILLEDGEVILLE -- Baldwin went to Forsyth a year ago and beat Mary Persons without quarterback DeAndre Thomas.
In the much-hyped rematch, the Braves were again without their standout quarterback for more than two quarters Friday night at Braves Field. And like last year, the Braves found a way to persevere without Thomas.
A dominant Baldwin defensive line held Mary Persons to 85 rushing yards and protected a lead with Thomas on the sidelines for an eventual 20-7 win. The Braves (4-1, 4-0 GHSA Region 2-AAA) remained unbeaten in region play.
“We’re looking to play 15 weeks this year,” senior defensive back Donte Beckham said.
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Thomas directed the Braves’ offense to a pair of first-quarter touchdowns -- a 34-yard screen pass to Deon Kelsey and a 1-yard touchdown run himself -- before leaving the game in the second quarter. He was tackled from behind around the ankles on an option pitch and stayed on the ground before the Braves’ coaching staff called a timeout to pull him out of the game.
Copeland said he could have returned, but Baldwin didn’t want to take a chance with a lead.
After Thomas left the game, the Braves’ offense failed to really threaten to score the rest of the way.
That’s when the Braves’ defense took over.
Baldwin’s defensive line bullied its way into the Mary Persons backfield throughout the game. The Bulldogs had 23 runs of 1 yard or less and 10 went for negative yardage.
The Braves’ defense held the Bulldogs to 85 rushing yards and 114 yards total, while intercepting Mary Persons quarterbacks twice. The Bulldogs moved into Braves territory four times in the first half but failed to score a point.
“Mary Persons kind of had their way with our offensive line last year,” Copeland said. “They took it personal.”
Baldwin stretched a 14-0 halftime lead at the start of the third quarter when Beckham returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of two picks for Beckham.