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Buford aims for history

Wolves seek record fourth-straight title, Jackets going for second ever

POSTED: December 10, 2010 12:40 a.m.

Buford preps for championship game

SARA GUEVARA | The Times/

Buford's Jamal English hands the ball off to Ryan Mack Thursday during football practice at Buford High School. Buford takes on Calhoun for the Class AA state title at the Georgia Dome.

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BUFORD — Here we go again.

Today at 4:30, Buford will play Calhoun at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in the Class AA state championship for the third year in a row. It’s the only time in state playoff history the same two teams in any classification have met in the championship game three consecutive years.

The Wolves (13-1) have won the previous two contests over the Yellow Jackets by a combined score of 58-31.
If Buford’s dynasty is reminiscent of the late-1990s New York Yankees, Calhoun (14-0) is more like the Atlanta Braves.

Buford has won six state championship in the last nine years, and with a win today would join West Rome (’82-’85) as the only football programs in state history to win four straight state titles.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets have had success getting to the finals, but have struck out trying to win it. In three different seasons (2005, ’08-’09) under coach Hal Lamb, Calhoun has lost in the title game. The Jackets are trying to win their first state title since ‘52.

But despite Buford’s dynasty and Calhoun’s previous losses in the big game, the Wolves aren’t taking their opponent lightly.

“I have a lot of worries heading into this game, but our kids overlooking Calhoun isn’t one of them,” said Wolves coach Jess Simpson, who, with a win today, will have as many state titles as he does losses in his time at Buford (he’s 81-4 since taking over the Wolves in 2005). “We’ve had two great games against them (the last two years in the state finals) and they were tough. When we watched the film of them playing Carver (in the semifinals), they looked awesome.”

Buford fullback Dominique Swope, who leads the team with six rushing touchdowns in four playoff games, said his teammates aren’t thinking about what happened in the last two title games.

“The coaches put in are heads what happened yesterday is done with and that won’t change this week,” Swope said. “(Calhoun) is well-coached, they’ve got some playmakers and they’re undefeated.”

The Wolves have just two regular season losses the past two seasons. In 2009 they lost to Lovett, and this season they lost to Carver-Columbus. The Wolves would have had a chance at redemption against those opponents in the title game, but Calhoun eliminated them in the semifinals both years.

If anything, the Wolves are motivated to beat the Jackets, as opposed to overlooking them.

“When I found out we were playing Calhoun again, I was kind of mad,” senior defensive back Eric Barr said. “I was mad because we really wanted (Carver), and we wanted Lovett last year, too.

“Oh well, we did what we had to do to get to the place we wanted to go.”

And now that the Wolves are where they want to be, they have a chance at state title history. But Simpson has said repeatedly that he’s not concerned about history, and that this 2010 team, which will never be together again, has a chance to win a state title this season, and it’s their only chance to do so.

For Barr, who has been with the program since his freshman year, he has the unique opportunity of winning a state title all four years of high school.

“Winning a fourth time would be special to the senior class,” Barr said. “We’ve stuck together, all 13 of us.”

When Buford takes the field today, it will be focused on the win, Swope assures.

“We’ll be ready,” he said. “We feel pretty good and everyone is happy we’ve made it this far. We’ve worked hard and we’re not going to stop now.”



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