Jefferson didn’t have a match for the speed of Mary Persons on Friday night. That, combined with five turnovers being forced by the Bulldogs, spelled out a big 51-32 win for Mary Persons as the Bulldogs advanced to the GHSA Class 4A semifinals for the second year in a row.
Mary Persons (11-2) will host Blessed Trinity next week with a trip on the line to the state title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The first few minutes of the game ended up being a microcosm of the night. Jefferson (10-3) quarterback Bryce Moore was sacked on the game’s first play and intercepted by Antoine Davis on the next snap. Mary Persons took a 7-0 lead on its second offensive play, a 36-yard run by Quen Wilson down the Jefferson sideline. It started a big night for Wilson as he rushed for 202 yards and four touchdowns.
Five who mattered
Wilson: It may as well have been game over for the Jefferson defense when Wilson was able to get to the edge. Wilson and the Mary Persons offensive line found great success when Wilson got outside the tackles, springing him for four scores — including a pair of 54-yard runs. His touchdowns also helped the Bulldogs keep pace as the first half resembled a track meet, giving the Bulldogs separate leads of 7-0, 21-14 and 30-14.
J.T. Hartage: He was able to buy time to throw outside the pocket, and the Bulldogs signal caller took advantage by throwing for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns while completing 10-of-11 passes. His clutch pass one play into the second quarter to Deadrek Alford broke an early tie as Mary Persons led 14-7, and a 55-yard bomb to Alford with 7:27 to go in the third stretched the Bulldogs lead to 44-26.
Deadrek Alford: Hartage put him in position to make plays, and he delivered, hauling in a pair of scores.
Condarius Alford: His 81 yards worth of receiving was a prime example of the Bulldogs keeping the Dragons spread out defensively.
Bralen Harvey: He made a huge impact defensively on Friday, picking off a pair of Jefferson passes — the second of which set up Wilson’s final score of the game, helping the Bulldogs pull further ahead with a 37-20 lead.
Twice on Friday both just before and after halftime, Jefferson had the makings of comeback going, making it a two-possession Mary Persons lead. Each time, however, the Bulldogs had an answer via touchdowns by Wilson and the 55-yarder from Hartage to Alford. Mary Persons did what good teams have to do to close out games - put the opposing chance to win away.
Track meet: For a half, the game was a track meet with both teams combining for 491 yards of offense before halftime. The Dragons had no answer for the Bulldogs speed, and Jefferson found success mixing its offense, trailing 30-20 at the break on an 11-yard pass from Moore to Zac Corbin. Mary Persons shut down Jefferson in the second half, holding the Dragons to a pair of touchdowns, one of which came when the game was already put away.
You can’t coach speed: No matter what Jefferson tried, on defense, it couldn’t match what Mary Persons tried to do on the perimeter. The Bulldogs were able to get in position to make plays, and Jefferson couldn’t match their athleticism. It certainly helped Mary Persons that it had zero turnovers to the five of Jefferson.
Few penalties: Mary Persons was focused in another way on Friday. Neither team was flagged for a penalty until a holding call against the Bulldogs with 7:10 to go in the third quarter.
Standing out: Mary Persons is the only public school remaining in the 4A playoffs.
Home history: Next week’s semifinal will be the Bulldogs’ first semifinal home game since 1993.
Strong schedule: Both teams to defeat Mary Persons during the regular season are still alive in the playoffs. Lee County (6A) and Peach County (3A) also advanced to the semifinals on Friday.
They said it
Wilson on the importance of the Bulldogs keeping the strong play up after halftime: “We told them in the second half that we had to keep doing what we did, we had to keep pushing.”
Hartage on the Bulldogs offense on Friday: “They couldn’t stop our running game or passing game, we just took advantage of it.”
Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson on the defense sparking the offense on Friday: “We picked a ball early and Bralen picks two and we got the stop after that. Offensively, coach (Jason) Morrow and that whole staff just do a great job. They got us in some plays that they thought would work and be successful and it worked out for us.”
Nelson on the Bulldogs speed advantage on Friday: “A couple of those times, Quen just got by them. Obviously, that’s nice to have. We really felt all week we could run it against them, we just didn’t know how efficient we could be with. It was a pretty high-scoring game, we haven’t played one like that in a while.”
Mary Persons hosts Blessed Trinity next week in the GHSA 4A semifinals.