After having an open week to stew over its second loss of the season, a heartbreaking one at Peach County, Mary Persons rolls into GHSA Region 2-4A play this week when it hosts Spalding in a collision of two teams worth of ranking in Class 4A.
The Bulldogs (3-2) don’t have the luxury of easing themselves into the time of the year that determines which teams advance to the state playoffs.
The visiting Jaguars are 3-2 with both losses coming by a combined seven points to a pair of unbeaten teams, Griffin and Houston County. Spalding actually led Houston County last week 17-0 before the Bears ripped off 28 unanswered points in a 28-24 win. Spalding was among the teams receiving votes in the most recent Georgia Sports Writers Association Class 4A poll with Mary Persons being ranked No. 8.
“They’re really, really good and they’re good across the board,” Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson said. “Their quarterback and running back are exceptionally good, their offensive line is good and have skilled wide receivers.
“Their defense is good across the board, their secondary and linebackers are good and their linemen can really play. They’re good across the board. They’ll come at you and fight a bit, and it’s showed in how they’ve played.”
Jaguars quarterback Naricuss Driver has fueled Spalding’s offense, both as a runner and passer with 614 yards on the ground and 415 through the air. He and running back AJ Moses have accounted for seven touchdowns apiece, with Moses also having given defenses another running option with 491 yards.
The athletic ability will place the spotlight on Mary Persons defense Friday.
“When you get those guys who are kind of dual-threat guys, it really stretches you,” Nelson said. “(Driver) can run it exceptionally like a tailback and then he can (throw) it,” Nelson said. “If you commit too many people, he can hurt you, too. He’s a big kid and hard to tackle and presents problems because he can do things well. He’s presented a problem for anyone they’ve played.”
Mary Persons will trot out its three-headed monster at running back with Zach Harvey, Jatori Sims and Quen Wilson. They have combined to rush for 1,233 yards and nine touchdowns, giving the Bulldogs not just multiple running styles, but capable depth, too.
This week starts a daunting three-game stretch within the region for Mary Persons, which has three straight games against teams that made the playoffs last year. After Spalding, the Bulldogs play at Upson-Lee and then travel to West Laurens following an off week.
“The region portion of your schedule is so important,” Nelson said. “You never like to lose going into an off week, but I think our kids have responded well, they’re resilient. They understand we have a big challenge in front of us and I think they’re just ready to play another game and just ready to play again.”