Perry and Mary Persons have had markedly different starts to the season.
The Panthers have one win and are battling some injuries and a tendency to interrupt their own good fortunes with mistakes. The Bulldogs are undefeated and have sprinted to a No. 4 ranking in the latest Georgia Sports Writers Association Class AAAA poll.
Perry has gotten good reviews from opposing coaches in its first season under head coach Carl Dixon, with harder and more fundamental play. That hasn’t turned into much success on the scoreboard, but the Panthers hope things are ready to change as they open GHSA Region 2-AAAA play Friday night at Mary Persons.
“We’ll have something going, and we’ll have a miscue,” Dixon said. “The other day, we had a 42-yard pass, and we had somebody blocking behind the play (illegally). We got the first down, but we lost 30-something yards.”
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The Panthers have been banged up, especially in the secondary, and will be without cornerback J.K. Lane on Friday. Running back Khalil Alexander had a good week of practice after an ankle injury.
The Panthers are 1-3, as they were a year ago at this point. Perry has scored 47 points and given up 91, as compared to 42 and 111 in 2014. Special teams problems were major issues in losing by 11 to Monroe-Albany and seven to Peach County. Last week’s 34-7 loss to Brooks County was the only game the Panthers haven’t been competitive in.
Perry watched a scoreless tie turn into a 14-0 deficit in short order, thanks in part to a blocked punt, then a bad snap on fourth-and-short.
“And it’s 14-0,” Dixon said. “When you haven’t done a lot of winning, it’s hard for kids not to get down at that point.”
Nevertheless, Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson said it’s clear on film that the Panthers have improved.
“There’s some energy there,” he said. “Body-wise and physically, they look better. They play hard defensively, run to the ball.”
The Bulldogs have impressed, as well, considering how many starters they lost from a year ago. Mary Persons keeps finding ways to win.
“The kids we’ve got, they’re a different crew,” Nelson said. “They’re kind of resilient.”
And that might be tested more as region play begins.
“It doesn’t matter what’s happened to this point in the season,” Nelson said. “The region championship and playoff seeding, that’s what matters right now.
“Everybody’s on equal footing.”