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Football: Wolves hope to add to rich tradition

POSTED: December 24, 2007 5:02 a.m.
BUFORD — After a few steps into Buford’s fieldhouse, it is close to impossible to avoid the Wolves’ rich history.

A large trophy case on the left wall displays myriad trophies, ranging from region championships to state titles. The rest of the walls in the first few hallways are covered by pictures honoring past state champions and undefeated seasons.

The first hallway ends with a series of written recognitions by the Georgia House of Representatives.

The shrine to all things Buford leads to the players locker room and the coaches’ offices. No Buford personnel can go to or return from practice without passing a memory of an old state championship team.

"It’s been that way for four years, since I got here," senior fullback Tyler King said. "State championships. That’s all you talk about."

With the memories of past state titles watching, this year’s version of the Wolves is preparing to add itself to the trophy case. The Wolves play host to Lovett Saturday at 6 p.m. for the Class AA state championship.

Buford won three consecutive state titles (one in Class A, two in Class AA) between 2001 and 2003, going 45-0 in that span.

In the Buford fieldhouse, the four years since the last state title is considered a long time, while most teams might be lucky to have one title in a decade or two.

The Wolves on this year’s roster are one win away from putting their program back at the top, where they are most comfortable. Second place just isn’t good enough anymore for the seniors on this team.

Pressure?

"It’s more inspiration," King said. "You always go ‘Hey, I want to be like that.’ Our class hasn’t seen a championship, so that’s our main goal. ... We want to get it back to where it belongs."

Senior lineman and Notre Dame recruit Omar Hunter thinks it is a blessing to be surrounded by great teams of the past.

"I don’t want to say its any pressure," he said. "It’s special being at a program like Buford and get to be around all of that."

The Wolves’ state runner-up trophies are also featured in the fieldhouse’s trophy case, but take a secondary spot to the three silver state championship trophies.

It is clear what it takes for a team to leave its mark in Buford’s history.

"If you lose in the third round, you are just another team that’s come through Buford," senior receiver and defensive back Kody Case said. "You definitely have to live up to the expectations."

Case was one of the few players to acknowledge there is pressure, even a small amount involved in wearing Buford’s uniform, but he wouldn’t go as far as to say it bothers anyone or affects how they play.

Even Buford’s coach, Jess Simpson, can’t avoid the shadow cast by past teams. Simpson’s tenure follows that of Dexter Wood, Buford’s most successful coach in school history.

From 1995 to 2004, Wood won three state titles, went on a state-record 47-game winning streak from 2001 until early in the 2004 season before losing to Central Gwinnett. He only had one losing season (1998, 4-6) and won 118 games in 10 seasons.

"I think, from day one, there was a whole lot of pressure to try and fill those shoes," Simpson said. "That’s the same way everyday. Coach Wood built something here and had some success here that is not matched by many. In a lot of ways, I stepped into a tough, tough deal."

Simpson has done pretty well for himself, winning 38 games in three season with one game left to go in 2007. But coaches at Buford, like the players, are remembered by state championships.

"Having a shot at it is special," Simpson said. "If you don’t win Saturday night, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot. Coming up short at this point doesn’t really feel acceptable at this point."



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