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Canes square off with Mary Persons, ticket to repeat finals on the line

The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes have won 28 consecutive games over the past two seasons and are now only two wins away from a second consecutive Class AAAA state title.

The Canes (13-0) will host Mary Persons (11-2) Friday night at 7:30pm at Weinman Stadium in the state semifinals. The winner will play for the 2016 state championship Saturday, December 10 at The Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Mary Persons won the Region 2-AAAA championship and is ranked No. 7. Cartersville won Region 5-AAAA and has been ranked No. 1 the entire season. The Bulldogs met Cartersville in the 1991 Class AA state semifinals. The Purple Hurricanes, on their way to their first state championship, won 21-17, in the only matchup pitting the two schools.

This year's Class AAAA semifinal game matches contrasting offenses.

Cartersville, led by highly touted junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence, is about 2-to-1 pass over run. Mary Persons favors the run about 3-to-1.

Lawrence is 220-of-349 passing for 3,450 yards and 45 touchdowns. He threw for 197 yards and one touchdown in a 26-15 quarterfinal win over Woodward Academy last week.

Mary Persons edged Blessed Trinity in the quarterfinals last week, 28-27.

Senior Zach Harvey is the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 1,395 yards and 24 touchdowns on 228 carries. He has seven games of 100 or more yards this season. Sophomore Quen Wilson has surged during the Bulldogs’ first three playoff games. He has over 500 yards during the playoffs and 866 yards on the season. He has six touchdowns and three 100+ yard games. Wilson ran for 152 yards last week against Blessed Trinity.

Senior Jatori Sims is third on the Bulldogs’ offense with 548 yards on 46 attempts with four touchdowns.

Mary Persons senior quarterback, Caleb Speir, is 90-for-164 for 1,478 yards and 13 touchdowns with only four interceptions. His top two targets have been senior Roger Akins (424 yards on 22 receptions, five TDs) and Sims (534 yards on 30 catches, four TDs).

Senior defensive end, Malik Herring (6-4, 245), leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 81, including 27 for loss. Senior linebacker Tay Jarrell (6-1, 205) follows with 75 tackles. Seniors Vic Henderson and Tre Howard have 73 and 70 tackles, respectively.

The Mary Persons/Cartersville winner will meet either Jefferson or Thomson in the state championship game.

The Jefferson/Thomson game, originally set for Jefferson, was moved to Thomson's Brickyard earlier this week due to GHSA seating mandates. The requirement for Class AAAA is 4,000. Jefferson’s stadium does not meet that requirement, leading school and GHSA officials to move the game to Thomson which seats about 4,400.

Both teams are region champs. Jefferson is 12-1 and won Region 8-AAAA. The fourth-ranked Dragons’ only loss this season came September 2 to Thomson, 42-20. Thomson is 13-0, has been ranked second most of the year, and won Region 3-AAAA.

Thomson's regular season win over Jefferson was the first meeting between the two programs since 1963. The Dragons narrowed the Bulldogs’ lead to eight points with just under five minutes remaining, but Thomson returned an onside kick for a touchdown and added another score late for their 22-point win. The Bulldogs also lead the all-time series with seven wins in 11 meetings. There have been two ties in the series that dates back to 1949.

Both offenses have been run-oriented this season.

Mike Thomas is Thomson's leading rusher with 2,143 yards, including 193 in a 30-7 victory over Spalding last week. Bubba Murray has 931 yards for the Bulldogs. Thomas and Murray have combined for 39 rushing touchdowns.

Junior quarterback Mills Ridings is 83-of-124 passing for 1,279 yards with 13 TDs for Thomson. Trey Parker (26 receptions for 534 yards) and J.T. Thomas (23 receptions for 466 yards) have been his top targets. Junior Colby Wood leads Jefferson with 1,534 rushing yards. Senior Zack Boobas follows with 594 yards and 14 touchdowns on 107 carries. Freshman Colby Clark has 590 yards and nine touchdowns on 134 attempts.

The Maxwell ratings projections have Cartersville as a 24-point favorite over Mary Persons and Thomson with an 11-point edge on Jefferson.

CalPreps projections has Cartersville as a 21-point favorite and Thomson as a 4-point favorite.

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