High School Sports

Mary Persons relying on defense to keep playoff run going

Mary Persons’ Malik Herring, hauling down Howard’s Jeremiah Kelly recently, leads a versatile Bulldogs’ defense that has surrendered only 88 points this season.
Mary Persons’ Malik Herring, hauling down Howard’s Jeremiah Kelly recently, leads a versatile Bulldogs’ defense that has surrendered only 88 points this season. photo@macon.com

While Mary Persons was enjoying a 45-12 win over North Clayton in the first round of the GHSA Class 4A playoffs, rushing for 303 yards, Heritage-Catoosa was having to battle all the way in a difficult 37-30 win over Stephens County, rushing for only 46 yards.

But Heritage, a spread team, had five touchdown passes, which leads to a very interesting second-round playoff game on Friday night in Forsyth.

Heritage, led by senior quarterback Corbee Wilson and his 31 touchdown passes, comes to Forsyth with an 8-3 record and three straight wins. He poses a great challenge for head coach Brian Nelson and Mary Persons.

“They do a very good job of throwing the football, and they have a great understanding of what they are trying to do,” said Nelson, whose Bulldogs come into the game with a 9-2 record. “They have receivers that know how to get open, and the spread makes you defend the entire field. We know they will get completions, but hopefully our defense will be able to contain them a little bit.”

The defensive line is a strength for Mary Persons, with Malik Herring, who has 23 tackles for loss and eight sacks this year, Tre Howard (15 tackles for loss), as well as Dan O’Neal and Jumon Wilson leading the way.

“The defensive line has played a lot of football games for us over the years, and we are confident that they will play well Friday night,” Nelson said. “That has been a strong spot for this football team.”

Mary Persons’ defense has given up only 88 points the entire year, and 46 of those came in losses to Houston County and Peach County. In the team’s nine wins, the Bulldogs did not give up more than 14 points in any of those games, and they also had three shutouts.

Nelson has also been pleased with an offense that has been led by running back Zach Harvey, who has 1,151 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, and quarterback Caleb Speir, who has thrown for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns.

But Nelson is also excited about running back Quen Wilson, who rushed for 213 yards against North Clayton.

“We have been waiting for him to have that kind of breakout game, and our offensive line gave him the chance to do that,” Nelson said. “It is always good to have someone else to look to on offense.

“But overall, the entire team has been practicing much better lately, and that has made the coaches feel better about things.”

Nelson was quick to point out that Friday night will be a tough football game.

“When you get to this point of the season, everyone is very good,” Nelson said. “We know we have to play our very best football on Friday night to beat Heritage. But we are all excited to have the opportunity to keep playing.”

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