High School Sports

Mary Persons looking for big upset of Buford

FORSYTH -- Numerous proverbial Davids have tried to slay the Goliath that is the Buford program during the past eight football seasons.

The top-ranked Wolves are winners of 36 games in a row and are vying their seventh state championship in eight seasons. During that time, they have lost more than one game in a single season just once.

Mary Persons heads to Buford on Friday looking to topple Buford’s championship reign.

“It’s just having the opportunity. You’re still able to play. Obviously they are a good team, but we feel like we are a good team, too,” Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson said. “That’s why you play the games and show us. We feel like we’ve done a good job in practice this week. Our thing is, ‘Why can’t it be us? Why can’t we?’ ”

Buford moved up to GHSA Class AAAA this year after back-to-back titles in Class AAA, but the Wolves haven’t missed a beat. They’ve scored more than 50 points seven times and held eight opponents to nine points or fewer. The only two teams to hold Buford to fewer than 30 points have been Jacksonville, Florida, powerhouse Trinity Christian and Class AAAAAA’s McEachern.

“We know they’re good and know we have a task in front us. Moments like this, that’s how they are made. We have the opportunity to keep playing the game,” Nelson said. “Our kids will be excited no matter who we are playing. You’re still playing football. There’s 16 teams in our classification left playing, and we’re one of them.”

With a track record such as Buford’s, it’s hard for the Bulldogs not to be aware of what they’re going up against Friday.

“I think they all know. These kids aren’t that naive,” Nelson said. “The thing we focus on is us getting better, things like taking care of the football, blocking and tackling, being able to execute. Whatever happens after that, happens.”

The Bulldogs (9-2) will banking on their defense Friday to help pull off the upset. Mary Persons has held six of its opponents to seven points or fewer. Even in the region championship deciding loss to West Laurens, the Raiders put 14 points on the board, and one was on a long pass play.

In last week’s first-round win over Westover, the Bulldogs posted a shutout, turning back multiple scoring threats by the Patriots to keep them out of the end zone.

“Our defense has played well all year. Nothing changed (last week),” Nelson said. “We’ll have a tall task in front of us, (playing well on defense) what it’s going to take.”

The Bulldogs also will need a strong night on the ground from Dee High. High has amassed 1,387 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, including two last week against Westover.

Another factor in Mary Persons’ corner Friday could be experience in big-game atmospheres and high-pressure environments. The Bulldogs seniors will be playing in their seventh playoff game. That postseason resume includes games at powerhouses such as Cairo and Burke County. The Bulldogs also took on Washington County on the road earlier this season.

“This’ll be their seventh playoff game in the past three years that they’ve played in,” Nelson said. “That helps a little bit, and they’ve played in some big games against quality opponents.”