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Wolves rout Lovett to advance to Class AA title game

POSTED: December 3, 2010 10:24 p.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Buford High defensive back Ryan Dillard, left, breaks up a Lovett pass intended for Cyrus Wilson during the first half of Friday night's Class AA semifinals game with Lovett at Tom Riden Stadium.

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BUFORD — The Buford Wolves have a chance at history.

With their dominating 53-13 win over Lovett in the Class AA state semifinals Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium, the top-seeded Wolves (13-1) will play for a fourth consecutive state championship. For the third year in a row, they’ll play Calhoun, who beat Carver-Columbus 27-14.

The Class AA state championship game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. next Friday.

Lovett (10-4), which created some history of its own on the way to the semifinals — the Lions beat Brooks County in the state’s first ever matchup of two No. 4 seeds — hit a road block against Buford, turning the ball over four times in the first half to spot the Wolves a 25-0 lead.

Wolves running back Seon Jones benefited most from the miscues, finishing the game with 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries.

“We had a good week of practice from the start on Monday,” the senior running back said. “And we came out here and everyone was well-focused and prepared, so we put the hard work to it.”

Now, the Wolves again face Calhoun (14-0). By handing Carver-Columbus its first loss of the season, the Yellow Jackets, for the second year in a row, eliminated the team that handed Buford its only regular season loss. Carver-Columbus beat Buford 14-0 on Sept. 3. Last year, Calhoun eliminated Lovett in the semifinals after Lovett beat the Wolves 28-21 in the regular season.

“I don’t know that we focus on that it’s a chance to make history,” said Wolves coach Jess Simpson, who is now 81-4 since taking over the program in 2005. “It’s this team’s opportunity to win a championship, and it’s our opportunity to play one more week. It’s our community and our program’s opportunity to play in the Georgia Dome, which, for a high school program, is the pinnacle.

“If you’re blessed enough to get here, this is one of the funnest weeks for a high school player, as a coach and community.”

The Lions’ opening drive ended with an Eric Barr interception, which led to a Buford touchdown by Dominique Swope, who rushed in from 2 yards with four minutes left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Dillon Lee took Lovett quarterback Jack Geraghty’s second interception and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.

“I think that really set us off and got the defense going,” said Lee, a junior linebacker. “It was 7-0 and they were driving down the field on us and I think it helped our momentum.”

On the point after attempt, Sam Clay took a bad snap and ran it to the left corner of the end zone to give the Wolves a 15-0 lead. It was another sign of how everything went right for Buford, while everything went wrong for the Lions.

Lovett’s Zach Boden returned the opening kickoff to the 35, but a penalty on the return put the Lions of their own 8. Geraghty, a backup quarterback thrust into the lineup two weeks ago after starter Hunter Budd suffered a shoulder injury, threw three picks and lost a fumble.

On the drive after Lovett’s fumble, Wolves quarterback Alex Ross lobbed a pass to the corner of the end zone and both Barr and Lions defensive back Thomas Patton came down with the ball, but Barr rolled over as the two lay on the ground to separate himself with the ball for the touchdown.

That score sent Buford into the half with a 32-6 lead.

“When you turn the ball over like we did tonight,” said Lions coach Mike Muschamp, “which is something we haven’t done all year, against a great football team like that, they’re going to capitalize.”

Any chance the Lions had of beginning a second-half rally was squashed by Jones, who on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter ran 77 yards to the end zone.

Midway into the third quarter, with a 46-6 lead, Buford put its subs in and the fourth quarter featured a running clock.

Though the season ended without a trip to the finals, the Lions’ overall sentiment was they overachieved, having lost 25 seniors and 17 starters from last year’s state semifinalist team.

“Nobody expected us to get this far,” said Boden, who led the Lions with 156 rushing yards and accounted for their only first-half score — a 73-yard run. “We weren’t expected to be very good this year, but we pulled it together and made something happen, so we’re all really proud of that.”


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