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Buford prepares for another playoff clash with Carver-Columbus

Teams meet Friday at Tom Riden Stadium in third straight postseason meeting

POSTED: November 26, 2013 6:59 p.m.
Nat Gurley | The Times/

Buford defensive back Thomas Wilson watches an incomplete pass fall to the ground against Woodward Academy at Tom Riden Stadium last week.

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BUFORD — Lately it’s almost a given that top-ranked Buford will face Carver-Columbus in the playoffs.

The two programs will meet for the third consecutive postseason Friday in the Class AAA state quarterfinals at Tom Riden Stadium, and fifth time overall since the schools first met during the 2010 regular season.

The growing rivalry between the Wolves (12-0) and No. 4 Tigers (11-1) has even transcended classifications, as both moved up to Class AAA in 2012.

“It’s fun to play in these games,” said Buford coach Jess Simpson, who has led his program to five state championships since 2007.

“We don’t take it for granted because we don’t know when the next time will come around.”

Buford earned home field advantage in this year’s postseason meeting against Carver-Columbus as a result of a coin flip Saturday since both held a No. 1 seed.

The road to the quarterfinals for the Wolves has been drama free in 2013 with a win against Sonoraville 58-0 in the first round, then a 40-7 victory against Woodward Academy in the second round. The Wolves’ defense has been a consistent force all season, allowing just six points a game and 2 yards per rush attempt.

“Buford is just a big, physical team that has a coach who does a great job with the program,” said first-year Carver-Columbus coach Joe Kegler, who has been on the program’s staff since it won the Class AAA state title in 2007. “It does seem like every season it does come down to a game with us against Buford.”

During the Tigers’ postseason run, they topped B.E.S.T Academy 38-32 after four overtimes in the first round, then shut out Jefferson County 19-0 in the second round last Friday.

Carver-Columbus’ path to its eighth straight quarterfinal appearance is behind sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass, who has thrown for 2,008 yards (23 touchdowns, 1 INT) and also rushed for more than 200 yards on the season.

The Tigers split carries rushing primarily between Dequindre Coleman (983 yards) and Noah Hickey (750 yards, 12 touchdowns).

“Carver’s tough,” Simpson said. “They have a 6-foot-5 quarterback that looks like Cam Newton, athletes all over the field and a big, physical front.”

This is the second consecutive season Buford has faced Carver-Columbus in the quarterfinals, after pulling out a 31-7 win over the Tigers in 2012. In 2011, Buford beat Carver-Columbus 28-13 in the Class AA semifinals at Memorial Stadium in Columbus.

The Wolves and Tigers first began with regular season meetings in 2010 and 2011. Carver’s lone win in the series came 14-0 in Week 2 of the 2010 season in Columbus.

To go along with a balanced offense, Carver also has a strong defense that is anchored by junior defensive end and University of Alabama verbal commit Mekhi Brown (6-5, 230), who has 40 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. The Tigers’ leading tackler is senior linebacker Tim Whatley, who has 117 tackles and holds scholarship offers from Duke and East Carolina.

However, Buford has an offense that hasn’t been challenged all season. The Wolves have gained rushing yards in big chunks (8 yards per carry) and average 270 yards on the ground per game. For the season, Buford has scored 86 touchdowns, while allowing just 10 all season to its opponents.

Buford’s leading rusher on the season is junior Joshua Thomas (669 yards, 11 touchdowns), while Thomas Wilson, Evyn Cooper and Xavier Gantt all have more than 400 yards rushing on the season.

The Wolves’ passing game has accounted for 1,507 yards, split almost evenly between the two senior starters Taylor Mitchell (698 yards, 8 TDs) and Montgomery Van Gorder (682 yards, 9 TDs).

The most points allowed by Buford in a single game this season was 14, twice (Gainesville and North Hall). The Wolves’ leader on defense is senior Clemson commit at linebacker Korie Rogers with 73 tackles, five quarterback pressures and a pair of sacks.

Buford is making its 14th straight appearance in the third round of the postseason. Simpson knows that his program is eager to make its own mark in the postseason and be remembered as one of the best in the school’s long, storied history.

“Our team knows that its legacy will be made by what it does it November and December,” Simpson said.
Kickoff Friday is 7:30 p.m. in Buford.


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