This year’s Mary Persons team determined to not let program slide
Playing at Mary Persons brings with it expectations of success, and the Bulldogs’ recent run of success certainly has added to those expectations.
In Brian Nelson’s five seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach, they have a 51-12 record and have won at least 10 games four times (they won nine games the other season).
“I think that just makes us grind harder and try to do better than every other season in the past,” senior linebacker Bralen Harvey said. “It gives us a better look at where we want to go and what we want to do. So that gives us a picture to look at for our team.”
Last year’s Mary Persons team finished 11-3 and reached the GHSA Class 4A semifinals. Nelson’s team, however, has just two returning starters on offense and three on defense.
“It’s a whole new group of guys. We’re really inexperienced. We’ve got some youth but mainly inexperience,” Nelson said. “What I mean by that is those guys haven’t played a lot on Friday night, and that’s different, so hopefully we can sustain it. The tradition and expectation, that always helps, but we’re going to try to do the best we can.”
Harvey and fellow seniors Jatorian Hansford (linebacker) and Tre Slaton (linebacker/safety) started last season, while Nelson said senior defensive back Ladondre Buckner will step into a starting role.
This year’s senior class has been a part of a program that has gone 31-7 the past three seasons.
“That helps. These guys have been on teams that have made runs in the playoffs,” Nelson said. “They may not have been playing, but they have at least been there and been on the trip and been on the bus ride and been on the sideline. So that always helps. And then what that does it creates a group of guys that doesn’t want to be the group that lets that slide or lets that down.”
The Bulldogs have gone undefeated in Region 2-4A the past two seasons, including a 5-0 finish in 2016. Mary Persons’ first region game is Sept. 29 at Spalding, and three of the Bulldogs’ non-region opponents (Lee County, Jackson and Peach County) reached the playoffs in 2016.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us. We’ve got a tough non-region schedule,” Nelson said. “Our region’s tough, and we’ve got some inexperience. But what I think what we’re trying to focus on is getting these guys experience in this non-region schedule and trying to find a way to be able to get their feet underneath them so that we’re ready later in the season.”
Mary Persons Bulldogs 2017
Head coach: Brian Nelson.
2016 record: 11-3.
Returning starters (offense/defense): 2/3.
Players to watch: Jatorian Hansford (Sr., LB); Quen Wilson (Jr., RB); Luke Byrne (Jr., OL); Condarius Alford (Sr., WR); Bralen Harvey (Sr., LB); Ladondre Buckner (Sr., DB); Jumon Wilson (Jr., DL).
Aug. 17 vs. Lee County (at Mercer)
Aug. 25 Jackson
Sept. 1 Washington
Sept. 8 Forest Park
Sept. 15 Peach County
Sept. 29 at Spalding
Oct. 6 Upson-Lee
Oct. 20 West Laurens
Oct. 27 at Perry
Nov. 3 at Howard