By Walter GeigerI was shocked ‘“ shocked, I say ‘“ Friday night when the once proud Mary Persons Bulldogs hid behind their lightning detector and some ridiculous GHSA rules to steal a win from the Lamar County Trojans in Forsyth.It’s tough to win at MP. Sometimes that has to do with the Bulldog talent but it always seems there is a little chicanery involved. Friday night’s debacle took the cake. Mary Persons once had a proud football tradition. It was home to the legendary Coach Dan Pitts who went 346-109 over 39 seasons, a winning percentage of .758. His team went undefeated in 1980 and won a state title.I have been covering high school football since 1979 and Coach Pitts was simply the best I have ever seen. It was said he could take his players and beat yours or take your players and beat his. It didn’t matter. To me, that is about as fine a compliment as can be paid to a football coach at any level.My lasting memory of his teams is repeatedly watching some 140-pound pulling guard come wide and smash a much larger defender.He demanded toughness from his players and he got it.In the 15 seasons since Pitts retired, the Bulldogs have floundered by MP standards.Three subsequent coaches have gone 107-57. Those teams have hung around but not been dominant. Still, remnants of the proud tradition were there or so we thought until the events of last week.Early in the week, a group of MP players burned a Lamar hoodie. They videotaped the event and posted the obscenity-laced footage online.There were concerns of gang violence at Friday’s game.The security contingent was 10 times greater than normal. Thankfully, there was only one minor altercation that I know of.Supposedly the hoodie-burners were suspended and held out of the game. I am not sure if that happened or not. The ghetto slang in the video was hard to decipher but the players seemed to call out their own numbers. It was shocking. Then came the game and the hijinks.MP knocked home an early field goal. Lamar responded with a TD. MP scored twice to make it 15-7. Lamar cut it to 15-13. Then, right before half, MP scored to make it 22-13.The third period opened with another MP touchdown and it appeared the Dogs were in control at 29-13.Suddenly, the Trojans surged. MP players were cramping up. Three left on three successive plays at one point.MP’s huge offensive and defensive lines were tiring. Lamar, clearly the better conditioned team, grabbed the momentum. They scored on a 20-yard run and got a two-point PAT to make it 29-21.Less than four minutes later, they scored again to cut it to 29-27 at the 1:53 mark in the third period. LC decided to go for two but had trouble getting the personnel in and called time out.They were just about to run the play when an MP coach sprinted onto the field to stop the game due to lightning.There had been lightning all night. It was heat lightning. No one ever heard any thunder.There were no reports anywhere in middle Georgia about any living creature being struck and killed by lightning Friday night. Still, the game was stopped.We all waited around for two or more hours until it was finally called off. The invertebrates at GHSA thumped their rulebooks, kissed some Dog derriere and let MP steal a victory it certainly did not earn on the field. There would have been no danger in running that PAT attempt before stopping the game and you can bet all the proceeds in the history of the Georgia Lottery, had MP been trailing and about to tie the game, it would not have been called until after the PAT. If you believe otherwise, GHSA has an opening for another idiot in its rule interpretation department.I have never seen anything like that ending and doubt I ever will again. It was the second low class move in one week by a once proud football program that has fallen to has been status. Note: Record information used in this column was obtained from the Georgia High School Football Historians website.Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.
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