Mary Persons Bulldogs knock off Jackson Blue Devils in 2019 Backyard Brawl
After losing every Backyard Brawl since 2012, the Jackson Red Devils looked poised to finally grab an elusive win over their rivals as they tied it up with 5 minutes left in Friday’s game.
But Mary Persons running back Enrico Harden had other plans as he powered the Bulldogs to a 36-29 victory.
“I like how we finished and we put up a good fight,” Harden said. “We got a lot of young kids on the team...When we all come together and get clicking we are going to be a great team.”
At the start of the game, Jackson forced a quick punt on the Bulldogs’ first drive but muffed the ensuing kick, setting up Mary Persons with excellent field position.
Harden made them pay with a 21-yard touchdown run, but a missed extra point put the score at 6-0.
The Red Devils looked poised to answer back, but a fumble deep inside Mary Persons’ territory gave the Bulldogs the ball back.
Once again, Harden’s speed was on full display as he took a screen pass 77-yards for another touchdown to put Mary Persons up 12-0.
The senior tailback was stuck behind Quen Wilson on the depth chart last season but flashed signs of being an impact player, averaging over 11 yards per carry.
“He was the kind of ‘give Quen a break’ guy,” Nelson said. “Now we are just asking him to do a little bit more. He is going to have to continue to get better.”
As the lead back and primary kick returner this season, he already has five touchdowns — three for over 70 yards. He added another long run in the second half that set up a field goal later in the game.
“He is just one of those kids that just makes plays,” head coach Brian Nelson said. “He is a super intelligent football player on top of being a really good athlete.”
In the second half, Jackson looked to be on the verge of mounting a comeback as the team cut Mary Persons’ lead to 29-21 with less than 8 minutes left in the game.
The Red Devils would recover an onside kick and march down the field to tie game with less than 5 minutes to play.
Once again Harden would come up big for the Bulldogs. Facing 4th and 1, Harden took the carry 41 yards for a game-sealing touchdown.
“I know when I get in the open field can’t no one stop me,” Harden said. “I just want to thank my o-line.”
Harden is becoming the consistent player-maker that the Bulldogs came into the season searching for.
He will be key for Mary Persons the rest of the season as they continue to look for answers on offense and defense after losing 17 senior starters.
“Our goal is to be getting better every week,” Nelson said. “We probably couldn’t have scripted a better way for that game to go because guys had no choice but to grow up.”
The Bulldogs will face Morrow next week as they look to get above .500 for the first time this season after starting 1-1 and avoiding an 0-2 start for the first time since 2016.
“This team is going to have to work for everything that it gets,” Nelson said. “This is the first time they have done that (win) as a 2019 team.”