The Jackson vs. Mary Persons football game has traditionally become known as the “Backyard Brawl,” and last Friday’s night game lived up to the reputation, with the Red Devils coming out on top, 28-27.
The win is significant on several levels:
1. It keeps Jackson in the hunt for the final 2-AAA playoff spot. If the Red Devils can go to Thomaston this Friday night and defeat the Upson-Lee Knights, they will lock themselves into the 4th spot in the region.
2. It was coach Dary Myricks’ first win against Mary Persons in the eight years he has been Jackson’s head coach. Myricks received a “Gatorade shower” from his players after the win Friday night, and was awarded the game ball by his coaches for his first win against the Bulldogs.
3. It came without Jackson’s first string quarterback, Carson Biles, who is out for the season with an injury suffered in the Central Macon game, and their leading rusher, Alex Patrick, who has been hobbled by an ankle injury. Jackson threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Bulldogs on offense, including the single-wing.
“We threw in the single wing,” Myricks said. “We’ve actually been working on it for a couple of weeks, due to our quarterback situation and our injury situation. We’re scraping the barrel. We’re like Mama in the kitchen with leftovers, trying to make a great meal out of it, and our kids did that and I’m proud of them.”
A pair of sophomores led the way for the Red Devil offense. Operating out of the single wing, Dawson Livingston took the snap and bulled his way over the right side for a pair of touchdowns. Then when Mary Persons concentrating on stopping him, he tossed the ball twice to Nykayviean “Bam” Lyons, who swept the opposite end for touchdown runs of 69 and 53 yards.
Jackson fans “sold out” the seats at Red Devil Hill Friday night, which was also Homecoming, with seating reduced to 20% capacity by COVID-19 restrictions. They were wondering how close the game really would be after the Bulldogs scored the first two touchdowns of the game to take a 14-0 lead with 9:57 left in the first half.
But the Red Devils got their game into gear with a 62-yard kickoff return by Okemus Grier that put Jackson in scoring position at the Mary Persons 34. With Livingston taking most of the snaps, the Red Devils moved down the field on nine plays, with Livingston going over from two yards out for the score. With Peyton Zimmerman’s kick, the lead was down 14-7, and remained that way for the rest of the first half.
Jackson took the kickoff to start the third quarter and on their second play from their own 31, Livingston lateraled the ball to Lyons, who dropped the ball, only to have it bounce right back up into his hands, and he was off, beating the surprised Bulldogs to the goal line for a 69-yard TD run. Zimmerman’s kick tied the game 14-14.
Neither team got a long drive started and traded punts, but Jackson’s Chance Goddin has his 53-yard punt downed at the Mary Persons’ 1-yard line. Five plays later, as the game entered the 4th quarter, Bulldog QB Logan Hickman was hit from behind while looking for a receiver and coughed up the ball, with the Red Devils recovering it on the Mary Persons’ 5-yard line.
Livingston took the snap and bulled his way over on the next play and Jackson had the lead. With the kick, Jackson led 21-14 with 10:30 left in the game.
But the Bulldogs never gave up. On their next possession, they marched down the field on 8 plays, with Hickman hitting Derek Jarrell in the endzone on a 37-yard strike. With the kick, the game was tied again, 21-21, with 6:57 left.
Jackson had two big plays on its next drive. Starting at their own 36, the Red Devils had 4th and inches at the 46. Livingston took the snap and bulled over for the 1st down, keeping the drive alive. Three plays later, Livingston again tossed the ball to Lyons. Getting a firm grip on it this time, Lyons headed down the field. He gave the last Bulldog defender a perfect feint, bypassing him on the way to a 53-yard TD. With Zimmmerman’s kick, Jackson led 28-21 with 4:05 left.
The Bulldogs began one last drive from their own 40 following the kickoff. In eight plays, they moved down to the Jackson 8. On 4th and 2, Jaboree Goodson took the handoff and swept the end for the score. Down by 1 point with 56 seconds left in regulation, MP Coach Brian Nelson sent his kicking team in, but then called timeout just as the ball was snapped. The kick was good, but the timeout cancelled it. Nelson sent his offense back onto the field for an attempt to win the game with a 2-point try. But a pass to the endzone was broken up by Grier, and Jackson had the win, 28-27.
Shivering from the ice bath he received from his players after the game, Myricks said it was a game that lived up to its name.
“I can’t be prouder of my kids, I couldn’t be prouder of their fight,” Myricks said. “Jackson versus Mary Persons is a typical backyard brawl. Neither team gave up, and right there at the end, Coach Nelson decided to go for all the marbles.
“Now we control our fate,” he added. “We’ve got to go to Upson-Lee and play a good game. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids. These kids worked their tails off. We came back from adversity. We lost Alex Patrick. We thought we had him back. But we’ve just got to keep grinding and hope we get him back by the playoffs, if we can pull one off at Upson-Lee.”
Jackson travels to Thomaston Friday night to take on the Upson-Lee Knights at Matthews Field. Due to COVID-19, attendance is limited to 50%. Visiting teams are asked to use the side entrance behind the visitor’s side. Face masks and social distancing are recommended. Tickets are $10. Matthews Field is located at 101 Holston Drive in Thomaston, just off East Main Street/Ga. Hwy. 74.