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Murphy: Defense keys Buford's rout of Lovett

POSTED: December 3, 2010 10:23 p.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Buford High's Dillon Lee, right, celebrates with teammate Andre Johnson after Lee's interception for a Wolves' touchdown during the first half of Friday night's Class AA semi-finals game with Lovett at Tom Riden Stadium.

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BUFORD — Nobody within earshot of Tom Riden Stadium would have wanted to trade places with Jack Geraghty on Friday night in Buford.

History wasn’t on the side of Geraghty, the backup Lovett quarterback forced into action with starter Hunter Budd sidelined for the Class AA state semifinal game against Buford (13-1).

It wasn’t that Geraghty was unequipped for battle; Buford’s defense, once again, was just that good.

All night, Buford’s defense, which created four turnovers in the first half, had a beat on Geraghty, running him down behind the line, keeping a hand in his face and pounding him into the ground at every chance possible.

“That’s the story of the first half was all the turnovers,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “After we broke down the game film, we knew they were much heavier run to pass with the backup in at quarterback.

“(Lovett) wanted to be able to try and play keep away from us when they had the ball, but our defense just did an excellent job.”

Geraghty had the odds stacked against him with the Wolves taking six of the previous seven meetings between these two Region 6-AA rivals since they were paired up in the same league in 2005. Many of these meetings, like the most recent one, weren’t even close with Buford’s relentless defense recording three shutouts since 2007, including a 50-0 victory in the 2007 state title game.

So Lovett was forced to saddle its hopes for an upset to Geraghty’s right arm in the most important game of the season for the fourth-seeded Lions (10-4). Even though he completed 5 of his first 10 passes, he eventually started to fold under the pressure of the nonstop pursuit of Buford’s defense.

“We have a great defensive group,” Buford linebacker Dillon Lee said. “We have a physical defensive line that sets the tone for the game.”

The entire Buford defense gave Lovett’s offense a rude welcome when they were pinned back at the 1 after only one play from scrimmage. The Lions’ quarterback was also thrown down hard for an 8-yard loss on a sack by junior defensive end Kurt Freitag on their second drive of the game.

Every part of the defense for Buford got in on the action. The relentless pursuit of the defensive line allowed Lovett’s junior QB little time to set and throw. When Geraghty did have time to get the ball away, there was a linebacker or defensive back ready to go up for the interception.

Lee’s one-handed interception and return for a touchdown tied him for the team-high with five picks, and put Buford ahead 15-0 early in the second quarter. Eric Barr intercepted a pass for Buford in the first quarter and Andre Johnson, a junior linebacker, got in on the interception party as well.

“Coach Simpson says play fast and we go out there on defense and do what we do,” Barr said. “We have a goal on defense to come away with two turnovers, so to have four is great.”

Buford’s defense was relentless all night. With the exception of a 73-yard touchdown run by Lovett’s Zach Boden, it kept the Lions at bay.

And no night for Buford’s defense, which was allowing 10 points per game coming into the semifinals, is complete without a forced turnover by the defensive line. In the second quarter, Geraghty was hit by a couple of Buford linemen behind the line of scrimmage and the ball was recovered by Dequan Clark.

Now, Buford is set for a chance at its fourth consecutive Class AA state title. The Wolves can thank the defense for that.



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