13-0, Region 7 No. 1 seed
Buford is through to a seventh consecutive state championship appearance,
|Photo courtesy Buford High School
but it was not without a struggle at the final roadblock. The Wolves, who are defending their 2012 Class AAA title and looking for a sixth winner's trophy in seven years, trailed at halftime for the first time all season before overcoming Callaway 24-14. Joshua Thomas rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns as Buford scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to erase a 14-7 deficit.
For the most part, however, Jess Simpson's ninth season as head coach has been similar to his first eight in terms of dominance from start to finish. The Wolves won their first 13 games by at least 28 points, including three straight 63-0 shutouts over Hancock Central, Banks County and West Hall. After destroying Sonoraville and Woodward Academy to begin the playoffs, they took care of Carver-Columbus 36-6 in the quarterfinals.
Buford's defense is scary good, having refused to allow more than 14 points in any game this entire year. Callaway had 14 by halftime last Friday to go along with 161 yards but in the second half, it did not score a single point while managing only 37 total yards and one first down.
The Wolves are huge up front on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line eventually took complete control against Callaway, paving the way for Thomas Wilson to gain 95 yards on just 14 carries to go along with the dominance of Joshua Thomas. Evyn Cooper, Xavier Gantt, Donte Gordon and Zavior Hoxie have also been sharing carries in by far the most crowded backfield in Georgia. Interestingly, Buford features a dual-quarterback system with Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery VanGorder. Both seniors have passed for more than 700 yards in 2013. The Wolves are just 11 points away from breaking the state single-season scoring record.
13-0, Region 3 No. 1 seed
Ranked second in the state behind Buford, Washington County is one win
|Photo by Perry McIntyre
away from capturing its first state championship since 1997. Head coach Joel Ingram's squad, which was a quarterfinalist in 2012, has won 11 of its 13 games by at least 36 points. Only Class AA finalist Lovett has come within four touchdowns of beating the Golden Hawks, who edged the Lions 36-33 in overtime on Oct. 4. Washington County has won its four playoff games by an average of almost 39 points following a 37-0 semifinal drubbing of Ringgold. Melvin Hill scored four touchdowns, including one on a 99-yard punt return, as Washington County posted all 37 of its points in the first half at Ringgold's expense.
Like Buford, Washington County has no apparent weakness on either side of the ball. The Golden Hawks' lowest output of the season came in their 36-point performance against Lovett and they have scored at least 55 points on seven different occasions. Against even stiffer competition in the playoffs, Washington County pinned 56 on both Johnson-Savannah and Peach County before rolling over Blessed Trinity 46-17. Hill rushed for 202 yards and scored five touchdowns in the quarterfinal romp. Washington County can also be dangerous with an air attack led by junior quarterback A.J. Gray and senior tight end D.J. Sanders.
Lining up at linebacker on the other side of the ball, Sanders had an incredible four interceptions against Blessed Trinity. Ringgold was slightly handicapped in the semis with quarterback Slade Dale hampered by a sprained MCL, but Dale passed for just 23 yards and the Tigers managed only 95 rushing yards as a team. Ingram did not have good things to say about his offense after it scored no points in the second half against Ringgold, but his defense earned the high praise it received.