FORSYTH -- The Long County Blue Tide football team played their third playoff game in program history on Friday, Nov. 10 and looked to pull off a huge upset. When the team rolled into halftime down just five points to Region 2-AAA champion and third-ranked Mary Persons, it looked like they might just do that.
However, too many mistakes late in the third quarter led to a heartbreaking 35-19 loss to the Bulldogs.
Mary Persons got the show rolling early as they used their powerful rushing attack to take a 7-0 lead on Duke Watson’s 76-yard run on the second play of the game.
The teams traded three and outs as the Blue Tide took over from their own 17 to start their second drive of the game. Ahmari Douglas picked up 19 yards to the 36 before Jashaun Manghane got to the 50 on a 14-yard run.
Cortney Charles picked up 35 yards to the Bulldog 15 before Douglas capped off the 83-yard drive on a 12-yard run to put the Tide up 8-7.
The Bulldogs made a play through the air, something they had not been accustomed to throughout the season. They picked up 51 yards on a Mac Nelson pass down to the Tide 16 and got in a goal-to-go situation as the first quarter came to an end.
On third and goal, the Bulldogs got a 4 yard run from Watson to make the score 14-8. The Tide drove down to the Bulldog 38 before facing a fourth and 5.
After a timeout, the Tide drew up a halfback pass as Charles looked for Keshawn Smith open in the endzone. The pass was just out of his reach as the Tide turned the ball over on downs.
The Bulldogs wasted little time taking advantage of the Tide mistake as Nelson completed another big pass for 52 yards down to the Tide 7.
On second and goal from the 15, Nelson hit receiver Seth Davis in the endzone for a touchdown to make the score 21-8 with 3:50 left in the half.
The Tide recovered the high pooch kick at their 46 as Manghane hit Dylan Tyler for a gain of 15 to the Bulldog 39. He hit Chris Hatfield down to the 30 for a third and 1 before the Tide faced another fourth down at the 32.
Manghane’s pass over the middle was incomplete as the Tide turned it over on downs with just over a minute left in the half.
The Bulldogs took to the air again to try to increase their lead before halftime, but Smith intercepted Nelson’s pass and returned the ball down to the Bulldog 35.
Manghane hit Charles for 31 yards to the 4 before hitting Douglas for a 4-yard touchdown to make the score 21-16 at the half.
The Tide got the ball to start the third quarter as they looked to take the lead again. This was stopped short after a sack on third down forced a three and out and punt for the Tide.
The Bulldogs eventually faced a fourth down at the Tide 21 and decided to go for it.
Steven Wyatt intercepted the ensuing pass, returning it all the way to the Bulldog 41. A late hit on the play put the Tide down inside the Bulldog 30 at the 26.
The Tide then did something they have not done in the three years Mike Pfiester has been head coach. On fourth and 5 from the Mary Persons 11, they called on kicker Nick Contreras for a field goal attempt.
Contreras’ first career attempt was true and straight down the middle as the Tide pulled within two at 21-19.
Ironically, those were the last points the Tide scored on the night.
The Bulldogs slowly worked their way down the field and into Tide territory before setting up a second and 9 at the 38. Nelson found a man open over the middle as they went into the endzone to make the score 28-19 as the third quarter came to a close.
On the next drive, the Tide were forced to punt on a three and out after another sack on third down. The snap to Wyatt was low and he was forced to run for his life.
The Bulldogs were called for a facemask, giving the Tide 15 yards to the 50 and setting up a fourth and 1. They could not convert the fourth down attempt as the Bulldogs stuffed the Manghane sneak attempt.
The Bulldogs finally turned their attention back to the ground game as Watson and Najeh Reese split carries to try to work the clock down.
It was Nelson whose legs finally put the final nail in the Tide’s coffin as he scored on an option keeper from 9 yards out to put the Bulldogs up 35-19.
The Tide looked to get something going with about 6 minutes left in the game as Douglas picked up good yards to the 48.
Manghane kept the ball on the next play but the ball popped free as the Bulldogs recovered and ran out the rest of the clock and seal the victory.
With the loss, the Tide missed out on their chance to play in the second round for the third year in a row. The team finishes 6-5 for the second year in a row as the class of 2024 finishes with 17 wins over three seasons, the most a senior class has achieved in Tide football history.