Despite its offense being bottled up for most of the first half, the chance to pull even was there for Mary Persons coming out of halftime against Blessed Trinity in the GHSA Class 4A semifinals Friday night,
Down by a score, the Bulldogs — playing in front of a capacity crowd at Dan Pitts Stadium — were in position to tie the game in a contest that would send the winner to next Saturday’s state title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Mary Persons (11-3), however, never got the equalizing score it needed, and the Bulldogs were eventually worn down by the punishing ground game and timely passing of the Titans (12-2), who put the game away with a pair of fourth-quarter scores to win 28-7.
The Bulldogs, who returned just four starters from last year’s team, end their season for the second year in a row in the semifinal round.
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Blessed Trinity advances to play Marist for the state title.
Five who mattered
Elijah Green: It was pretty much a pick-your-poison approach for Mary Persons on Friday when going against Blessed Trinity’s stable of backs. The hard running of Green both inside the tackles and toward the outside not only helped wear down the Mary Persons defense, but also chewed up the clock as well. Green gained 105 of his 163 yards in the second half and his 15-yard burst up the middle made the game a two-score affair early in the fourth quarter by way of a 21-7 Titans lead.
Steele Chambers: He also proved hard to bring down by the Bulldogs, rushing for 92 yards on 16 carries. He gave the Titans their first lead of the game from 8 yards out on the game’s first drive with a 28-yard run being the game’s final score in the fourth quarter. He also caught a 25-yard pass on a throwback screen for the Titans’ second score.
Jake Smith: The Titans quarterback did enough to keep Peach County honest, completing 8-of-12 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Deadrek Alford: He injected life into the Bulldogs with 14 seconds to go in the first half when he jumped up to pull down a pass from J.T. Hartage from 25 yards away. The score cut the Blessed Trinity lead to 14-7.
Bralen Harvey: His interception of Smith inside a minute to play in the first half set the Bulldogs up to be in position to score.
Ready for the the big game: Mary Persons fans soaked up all the excitement of the Bulldogs’ first home semifinal since 1993, getting to Dan Pitts Stadium early Friday. The home side of the stadium was mostly full more than 30 minutes before kickoff.
Missed chances: Against a team like Blessed Trinity that is intent on controlling the clock, taking advantage of scoring chances is key. The Bulldogs missed on two key ones Friday. Mary Persons had one first-half drive in Titans territory end on a fumble, with the first Mary Persons drive of the second half being snuffed out by a stop on third down and a sack of quarterback J.T. Hartage on fourth down by Raleigh Barden.
Tough sledding: Blessed Trinity dominated up front, never allowing the Bulldogs’ ground game to get on track. The designed quarterback runs as well as the ability of the Bulldogs running backs to bounce the ball outside were a non-factor Friday. Quen Wilson was held to 50 yards rushing with Hartage being limited to negative yards rushing as he was also brought down behind the line of scrimmage five times.
Blessed Trinity has now won three games in a row during the state playoffs against teams that advanced to last year’s semifinals - Mary Persons, Thomson and Cartersville.
They said it
Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson on the loss: “We were right there for a little while. We got a little momentum there before the half and then the half comes, it kind of stalls on us a little bit and we couldn’t defend them long enough. It was just a matter of time, probably. A lot of credit goes to them; they’re a good football team. We fought as long as we could and as hard as we could. It’s what these kids have done for us all year; there is nothing to be ashamed of in that.”
Nelson on what the Bulldogs take away from the season: “The biggest thing is that I’m just really proud of our team, I’m proud of every kid on our team. What they have done for our program, especially these seniors. The young guys will have to come back in and be ready to roll.”
Blessed Trinity quarterback Jake Smith on the Titans’ mentality coming into Friday: “We were really confident, but we didn’t let that get the best of us. We knew Mary Persons was a really solid team. We knew we had to bring everything we had and left it all out on the field.”
Smith on preparing for Mary Persons: “They took it from us last year by a point .... We knew we’d have to play the best that we could play to beat them.”
Blessed Trinity plays Marist on Saturday for the GHSA Class 4A state championship.
BLESSED TRINITY 28, MARY PERSONS 7
Blessed Trinity 14 - 0 - 0 -14 =28
Mary Persons 0 - 7- 0 - 0 =7
B- Steele Chambers 8 run (Chauvin kick)
B - Chambers 25 pass from Jake Smith (Chauvin kick)
M - Deadrek Alford 25 pass from J.T. Hartage (Dawson Daniel kick)
M - Elijah Green 15 run (Chauvin kick)
M - Chambers 27 run (Chauvin kick)
RUSHING: Blessed Trinity: Chambers 16-92, Elijah Green 27-163. Mary Persons: Quen Wilson 11-50, Tre Slaton 4-30.
PASSING: Blessed Trinity: Jake Smith 8-12-1, 125 yards. Hartage 11-17-0, 89 yards
RECEIVING: Blessed Trinity: Ryan Davis 5-67. Mary Persons: Deadrek Alford 2-42.