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Buford quarterback a calming presence for Wolves

POSTED: November 26, 2010 12:23 a.m.

Buford preps for Cook County

Buford coach Jess Simpson discusses this week's quarterfinals game with Cook County, to be played Friday in Buford.

Scott Rogers/The Times

Buford High quarterback Alex Ross warms up during a recent Wolves practice. Buford plays host to Cook tonight at Tom Riden in the Class AA state quarterfinals.

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BUFORD — Buford High senior quarterback Alex Ross is the man with a million different nicknames, but his play on the field is as consistent as it gets.

Steven (his actual first name), Alexander, A-Ross and Ross are just a few of the names that get tossed around when referring to the Wolves’ signal caller, who is a popular man in the team’s locker room, and has the program in contention for its fourth consecutive Class AA state title.

Ross’ easy spirit and lightheartedness with all his nicknames reflects his calm presence in the huddle for Buford (11-1). But don’t confuse a calm demeanor for not being a fierce competitor.

“Alex is a playmaker,” said junior offensive lineman Vadal Alexander. “He battles every single play and makes our job easier on the line knowing that if we protect well, he’ll get the job done.”

This week, Buford hopes to take the next step toward another Class AA state title in its quarterfinal game against Cook (12-0) tonight at Tom Riden Stadium in Buford.

For Ross, who is committed to Coastal Carolina University, getting to this point in his career has required a tremendous amount of discipline. Every day starts early with a 30-mile drive to school from his Alpharetta home, picking up his teammate Kurt Freitag in Cumming on the way to Buford. To make it to school before the first bell, Ross says he’ll leave home at about 6:35 each morning.

“That’s dedication right there,” Buford senior running back Seon Jones said.

Now, Buford has the chance to make it four straight state titles, which would tie only West Rome (1982-85) as the only other school to win four straight.

“Playing at Buford has been everything that I thought it would be and more,” Ross said. “I think the area in which I’ve developed most this season is my consistency.”

Ross (1,463 passing yards, 14 touchdowns) enrolled at Buford as a sophomore, but wasn’t allowed any varsity action that season in accordance to the GHSA’s rule regarding transfer students. As a junior, Ross was immediately named the starter by coach Jess Simpson and hasn’t left the starting lineup since.

Simpson says Ross’ greatest tool is his mental maturity. He says that Ross has the ability to shake off a bad play — even though they rarely happen — and move on to the next down.

Buford’s coach will regularly give Ross the option of two plays to call at the line of scrimmage because he knows his quarterback can read the defense and its blitzes and coverages to decipher the play with the greatest chance of success.
“We ask Alex to do a lot,” Simpson said. “He’s got a lot of ability and is really a tough kid.”

Ross says that the only reason that he’s been successful this season is the great work of Buford’s offensive line. With Alexander the only returning starter this season, who in turn missed much of the regular season, the great question mark was whether the Wolves would have a serviceable offensive line. Well, they have passed that test with flying colors.

“Our offensive line has done an amazing job,” Ross said. “It’s because of them that I keep my back off the ground.”

Now that the playoffs are moving along, Alexander, Tyler Burge, Ben Sweatt, Josh Cardiello and Devonte Mack are the main cogs in the offensive line that Simpson says is the centerpiece of the team.

“Our offensive line has had a great year,” Simpson said. “I always tell them that ‘as you go, we go as a team.’”

In turn, the line fights a little harder every down knowing the guy in the pocket can sling a touchdown pass at any moment.

“I think he makes our job easier,” Alexander said.

Teammates of Ross say he has a calming presence in the huddle. If anxiety is running high, like in the Carver-Columbus game, he could help ease the nerves. Jones said Ross was the one to try to get them all on the same page when things weren’t going quite as well as they would have liked against Carver.

“Against Carver-Columbus we were all a little too emotional,” Jones said. “He was able to get in the huddle and say ‘let’s go’ and really helped us out a lot.”

“I’m always trying to encourage everyone in the huddle,” Ross said. “I try to get everyone to relax and I’ll tell them all to lighten up.”

Ross isn’t trying to put up better numbers than other great high school quarterbacks that have walked the halls of the school: He knows he’s his own man. Individual stats and glory all come secondary to trying to win that state championship.

“Winning the state title this season would be unbelievable,” Ross said.


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