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Buford starts as it finished, beats Elbert County 46-7

Gainesville up next for Wolves next week in showdown of state champs

POSTED: August 30, 2013 11:44 p.m.

BUFORD — All was well for the reigning state champion Buford Wolves on Friday night.

The defending Class AAA champions cruised past the Elbert County Blue Devils 46-7 in the season opener at Tom Riden Stadium.

“I’m excited. It is still the first game, we made way too many mistakes but that is what everybody does in the first game,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “We’ve worked on it all summer and I know we will clean it up this week. The exciting thing is how hard our kids are playing and how many guys we are playing.”

On Friday night, Buford had plenty of players get into the action. Six different Wolves scored touchdowns, while the defense forced a safety and Matthew Bonadies added a second-quarter 28-yard field goal.

Offensively, the Wolves looked nearly unstoppable, racking up 424 yards of total offense, despite starting four drives inside Elbert County territory. Defensively, Buford limited the Blue Devils to 208 yards of total offense, the majority of which was gained in the fourth quarter against younger, less-experienced players.

“We had really good intangibles on the sideline,” Simpson said. “Once we started to get some momentum, we really had a great end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter. Then we had a chance to put them away there at the end of the second quarter and we didn’t, but that happens.”

Buford scored on three of its first four offensive possessions of the night before forcing a safety on Elbert County’s fifth offensive possession to take a 23-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

Buford added a field goal to close out the second quarter, and then scored on its first three second-half possessions to build a mammoth 46-0 lead.

“The biggest thing, because we were so young last year, (and) this year we have just gotten to play a lot of guys who got experience last year,” said Simpson, whose Buford team escaped with a 14-3 win over Elbert County last season.

“I think we executed light years ahead of where we did a year ago.”

Up next for the Wolves (1-0) are the reigning Class AAAAA state champion Gainesville Red Elephants, who beat West Forsyth 58-28 on Friday night. Gainesville was the only team to beat Buford last season.

Simpson said despite the big lead late in the game, Buford stayed focus throughout the game, even if the fans were already turning their attention towards Gainesville and star quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“In a lot of ways you’ve already been preparing for our first two or three opponents all summer,” Simpson said. “Certainly everybody in the state, from north to south, probably all over the country know that (Watson) is one of the best players in the country.”

While the highly anticipated game against Gainesville is next week, Simpson made it clear the Wolves were going to enjoy Friday night’s win, even if only for a day or two.

Elbert County (0-1) put a scare into the Buford faithful in the first minute Friday night, moving inside the Buford 10-yard line behind a pair of big runs. The Buford defense quickly responded, pushing Elbert County out of field goal range and eventually forcing a turnover on downs.

It took the Buford offense just six plays to find the end zone after taking possession, building a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard run by Joshua Thomas.

Buford’s defense forced Elbert County into four-straight three-and-out series after that, while the Wolves’ offense piled on the points.

It took just four plays to go 46 yards to take a 14-0 lead, coming when Donte’ Gordon smashed into the end zone on a 5-yard TD run.

A few possessions later, the Wolves were back into the end zone, capping off a quick three-play, 29-yard drive. This time, Thomas Wilson found the end zone, coming on a 6-yard run.

On the following Elbert County possession, the Buford defense flexed its muscle once again.

On third-and-long, Blue Devils quarterback Mecole Hardman was hurried by multiple Buford defenders in the end zone, forcing him to throw the ball away. Hardman was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety. Buford led 23-0.

In the second half, Buford quarterbacks Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery VanGorder got into the action. Each senior threw a third-quarter touchdown.

Mitchell connected with sophomore Isaac Nauta on a 15-yard scoring strike to make the score 33-0. The following drive, VanGorder found a wide-open Steven Reese on a 43-yard TD strike, the Wolves’ only play of the possession.

“We were a little more polished offensively tonight,” Simpson said.

Buford’s final score came on a 52-yard touchdown run by Evyn Cooper, who finished with a game-high 101 yards rushing on the night.

Joshua Thomas finished with 45 yards rushing on six carries, while Thomas Wilson finished with 40 yards rushing on five carries. Zavior Hoxie contributed with 25 yards.

Both Mitchell and VanGorder attempted seven passes. VanGorder finished 5 of 7 with 109 yards and a score, while Mitchell was 5 of 8 with 65 yards and a TD. Nauta led Buford with 52 yards receiving on just three receptions.


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