FORSYTH -- It’s not like Brian Nelson gives up control of his program to his players, but he certainly wants his seniors to take ownership of the team when they have their chance to lead.
So far, giving those seniors that kind of responsibility has worked out well in Nelson’s short tenure as Mary Persons’ head coach.
The Bulldogs are 20-5 in Nelson’s two seasons running the program, winning 10 games in each of those seasons.
“We look at it as, ‘What is going to make us different?’ ” Nelson said. “Everyone is working out in the summer, and everyone is lifting weights and getting ready for the season. Everyone has good players, players signing here and there, so we focus on what makes us stand out, and we think it has to be leadership and chemistry.
“The players, it’s their team. The coaches are certainly here to back them up, but if the players don’t buy in and lead the team, you’re not going to have a good football team.”
Nelson’s first team reached the quarterfinals of the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs, and last year’s team reached the second round. So there’s no reason to change the approach that has built that success.
And Nelson likes what he has seen from this year’s group of seniors.
“They have done a great job this summer and built the team chemistry the right way,” Nelson said. “This group has shown a lot of leadership, and that’s what we want. That’s the way we want things done.”
Senior Demarcus Davis enjoys the freedom the Bulldogs’ coaches give the players, although that leadership role is really nothing new for him.
“It feels good to be a leader and have everyone following you and being able to help the other players,” he said. “But I’m kind of a natural as a leader; it just kind of comes to me, and I have tried to be a leader my whole career.”
This year’s team, which has seven returning starters on offense and five on defense, has a strong senior class, led by Davis. He will be helped by center Tyler Camp and running back Dee High, among others.
“My whole class, we have a great group of guys, guys who want to do things the right way,” Davis said. “If the seniors see anyone slacking off, we’re always there to pick them up and get them going again.
“Being a leader is important. It makes you feel confident that the coaches trust you that much and believe that you can be that kind of player for the team.”
MARY PERSONS in 2014
Head coach: Brian Nelson (20-5 in two seasons overall and at Mary Persons).
2013 record: 10-2.
2014 region: GHSA 2-AAAA.
Returning starters: 7 on offense; 5 on defense.
Players to watch: Demarcus Davis (6-2, 220, Sr., DE); Tyler Camp (6-3, 295, Sr., C); Dee High (5-11, 185, Sr., RB); Quen Shannon (6-0, 220, Sr., LB); Malik Bledsoe (6-1, 185, Sr., WR); JT Stokes (6-0, 180, Sr., WR); Mykel Lucear (6-1, 250, Sr., DL); John Perkins (6-2, 215, Sr., LB); Keri Brown (5-9, 170, Sr., DB); Amari Walker (6-1, 245, Sr., OL).
Aug. 29 at Jackson
Sept. 5 at Washington County
Sept. 12 Lamar County
Sept. 19 LaGrange
Sept. 26 at Perry
Oct. 10 Howard
Oct. 17 at Upson-Lee
Oct. 24 Veterans
Oct. 31 at Baldwin
Nov. 7 West Laurens