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Cochran: Buford not easily excited

POSTED: December 23, 2007 5:03 a.m.

The scene was set in the bowels of the Georgia Dome last Saturday.

The two teams playing for the Class AA state championship, Buford and Lovett, crossed paths as Buford finished and Lovett started their respective semifinals games. Waiting to do post-game interviews, I had a front-row seat.

Buford hardly glanced at the Lions as they headed out to beat Cook 29-16, officially signing up for a rematch with the Wolves (Buford beat Lovett 21-0 in the Region 6-AA title game).

Several Lovett players, on the other hand, couldn’t help but stare at the fate that potentially awaited them.

Buford doesn’t need to do anything extraneous to intimidate their opponents or pump themselves up. As they have all season, the Wolves just need to show up.

"We’re very subdued," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "We’re not a real ‘Ra-Ra’ team to begin with, never have been. We always joke that we lose in warm up every week. Other teams have all these things they do, jumping around and stuff. Our kids just buckle (their pads) up and play."

That calm demeanor returns after the game is over.

Buford’s win Saturday was one of the most complete games I’ve seen all season.

They forcefully stamped 48 points on the helmets of Dublin at the Georgia Dome in the Class AA state semifinals and gave back no points in return to the Fighting Irish.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected from a team on its way to the state championship game, but it wasn’t what I saw from the Wolves after the game.

Waiting to do my interviews, I thought the small hallway crammed with teenage football players would be packed wall-to-wall with noise, cheers and the sounds of pads being bumped together in celebration of the statement game to end all statement games.

Instead, a calm, collected group of Buford football players dressed in white jerseys with nary a mark on them walked back to their makeshift locker room and got changed.

Then, the Wolves made their way back out, bags packed, and got ready to watch Lovett and Cook in the day’s second game.

Like a hitman researching a mark.

The Wolves left whatever excitement they felt from their most recent win on the field.

"Our goal is not to beat Dublin in the Dome," Wolves senior Omar Hunter said. "It is a state championship."

Clearly the only people not impressed with the Buford football team at this point in the season are the players and coaches on the Buford football team.

"This is a senior team that has one goal," Simpson said. "They certainly were excited to win at the Dome, but the mission has not been accomplished yet and they all know it."

The Wolves’ business-like approach to postseason football is almost scary. At least, if I were lining up against guys like Hunter and linebacker T.J. Pridemore, I’d be a little scared, too.

Okay, a lot scared.

That’s why I stay safely out of the way in the press box. Dublin found out the hard way what happens to teams that stand in the path of this Wolves team.

This team is focused as tightly as a laser on winning its first state title since 2003. For most teams, four years between titles is a blessing, for Hunter and the Wolves, it’s been "a long time," the senior lineman said.

Those four title-less years have only drawn the Wolves focus sharper.

There might be concerns that a team with such a professional attitude might have a hard time playing hard for anything but a state championship, but a 48-0 win in the Georgia Dome made those concerns just sound silly.

If there is an excitable group of teenagers hidden under those pads and jerseys, it only has four days left until Pridemore, a senior, could make his way into the stands to watch his next victim/opponent Saturday, a fellow reporter and I stopped him for a couple of questions.

He answered them with the stoic attitude of someone who had just been interrupted in the middle of a nap; polite as always, but not considerably enthused with the topic.

It wasn’t until I asked him about Saturday, the state championship game, that he let a smile slip through.

My guess is, with a win Saturday, the Wolves might finally let themselves celebrate. There is not much else for them to dominate.



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