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State championship notebook: overtime win a rarity for Wolves

POSTED: December 10, 2010 9:53 p.m.

ATLANTA — Buford’s overtime victory for the state title was historic on a number of levels. Not only was it the Wolves’ (14-1) fourth straight championship in Class AA, but it was also the program’s first game that went to overtime since a 22-21 state quarterfinal win against Hoganville in 1978.

The Wolves won that game on a penetration rule by advancing furthest with the ball on their possession. Buford went on to earn its first state championship in 1978 three weeks later by beating Charlton County in the state finals.

The state championship format most recently changed after the 2006 season when Peachtree Ridge and Roswell split the Class AAAAA state title in a tie.

Calhoun won the coin toss in overtime and elected to play defense first. Buford scored for the go-ahead touchdown and held Calhoun on the ensuing drive.

WOUNDED WARRIOR: Many probably didn’t expect to see Buford’s Nathan Staub playing again this year after tearing his MCL during the regular season against Avondale. However, after sitting out seven weeks he was on the field from the game’s opening play at fullback.

Wearing a bulky brace wrapped in tape around his right calf, Staub wasn’t in any pain, despite not playing in nearly two months.

Staub received the green light from his coaches last Saturday after beating Lovett in the state semifinals. Along with Staub, Wolves linebackers Andre Johnson and Dillon Lee all return in 2011 for Buford.

FIGHTING THROUGH THE PAIN: Even with a turf toe he received in last Friday’s win against Lovett, Dominique Swope was still up for the challenge. Not only did Swope score the game-winning touchdown on a 9-yard run in overtime, he was also the lead blocker in the backfield. Limping after the game, Swope said he was in a great deal of pain the entire game.

“I think I would have been able to run even harder if I didn’t have the turf toe,” said Swope, who was unable to practice this week.

ROSS COULD DO NO WRONG:
Buford senior quarterback Alex Ross was perfect early in the game by completing his first 11 passes. Not only did he work the sideline passes to Trey Jerkins, Paris Head and Jamal English flawlessly the first three quarters, but also showed his precision with the throws across the middle.

His most impressive throw in the opening half was a second down completion across the middle to his tight end Lee. Scrambling to his right away from pressure, Ross threaded the ball between two defenders into the arms of his open receiver.

Then early in the third quarter, he hit junior tight end Kurt Freitag on third down for a 24-yard touchdown pass.

Ross, a Coastal Carolina commit, has been known for his precision all season. Heading into the state title game, he threw for 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He finished his senior season with 1,808 yards passing.

PLAYING IT SAFE: The Wolves didn’t want to chance a long kickoff return by Calhoun in the first half. On consecutive kickoffs in the second quarter, Buford opted for using the pooch kick to keep the ball out of the hands of Yellow Jackets kick returner Dustin Christian.

Buford’s second short kick yielded the best results. After the Yellow Jackets completed two quick passes and the wide receiver stayed in bounds on a two-minute drill, Wolves junior defensive back Ryan Dillard went to the ground and came away with an interception. In the first quarter, it was Dillard that was in the right place at the right time with a fumble recovery and 55-yard touchdown return.

In the second half, the Wolves’ kickoff after a touchdown sailed out of bounds and gave the Yellow Jackets the ball at the 50.

EYES OFF THE BALL: Buford’s botched fake punt in its own territory early in the fourth quarter came directly as a result of one of its own player’s miscue. Unaware that the ball was coming in his direction, the snap hit off Dillard’s facemask and resulted in a turnover on downs. However, the momentum was short lived for Calhoun as quarterback Landon Curtis was interception by Buford junior C.J. Moore in the end zone.

NICE BALANCE: All season, Buford has prided itself on being even with the rushing and passing game.

Friday’s game was no exception. Not only did Ross have a perfect first half passing (102 yards), but the running backs also did their job with 122 yards.

Senior Eric Barr reeled off the Wolves’ biggest first-half run with a carry from the 40 all the way down to the goal line. Seon Jones, Andre Johnson and Swope also had carries for positive yardage in the opening half.

PUNISHING PENALTIES: With first and goal and trailing 14-0, Calhoun was slapped with a penalty for offside. However, on the ensuing play the Wolves were penalized for an illegal substitution and the Yellow Jackets’ Christian scored on a run from the 3. Buford finished the game with 13 penalties for 90 yards.



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