Taking its opponent likely isn’t expected to be a problem for Mary Persons on Friday when it opens its season.
The Bulldogs will make the short trip up I-75 to take on long-time rival Jackson. They have split the past 10 meetings, including the past two. Jackson’s most recent victory was a 24-23 nailbiter in 2012.
“It definitely gets talked about by our players and fans, and it’s talked about by their players, too. It’s a great community event,” Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson said. “Our kids have dads and uncles who played against Jackson, so they hear about this game when they are at home, too.”
Still, the Bulldogs are aware of their season extending beyond the annual game against the Red Devils. After a 31-9 win over Jackson last year, Mary Persons won eight games in a row. After the loss to Jackson in 2012, the Bulldogs rebounded to win 10 of their next 11 games and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
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The Bulldogs are 20-5 the past two seasons, winning at 10 games each year. For the Bulldogs to meet or exceed that standard, they know that a strong start to the season is key.
“We try not to much too much emphasis on it,” Nelson said. “Obviously, when you come into a game like this, it’s important for us to play well and try to find out what kind of team we have.”
The Bulldogs don’t have the luxury of letting up after playing Jackson.
Friday’s game starts a gauntlet non-region schedule for Mary Persons. The four-game stretch includes two state runner-up teams from last season, Washington County and Lamar County followed by LaGrange before play in GHSA Region 2-AAAA begins.
With such a daunting early schedule, which includes a road trip to play Washington County in the “House of Pain” in Sandersville, a strong start is critical for the Bulldogs.
“It’s tougher competition for us than we’ve had the past few years,” Nelson said. “Those are some pretty good football teams, when you play teams like that, you find out where you stand.”