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Hall's home fields: Buford stadium home of 3 state title victories
Wolves' fans, players have pregame rituals
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Buford fans begin to fill the bleachers before a game Sept. 23 against The Lovett School at Buford High School. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

There are several state championship trophies in the case at Buford High School.

They might not be there were it not for former head coach Tom Riden.

"Tom Riden was one of the original coaches and administrators at Buford High School in the late '40s and early '50s. He really actually coached our first football team here," said Dexter Wood, athletic director at Buford.

"He started the program. After several years of coaching football he got us to the first state championship game. He coached other activities and later became the principal of Buford High School, so he wore a lot of other hats."

It was no wonder then that the Buford Wolves' stadium was named for Riden.

Wood said the Wolves have only been playing in this stadium for about 20 years, but there are plenty of big games to remember.

Three state championships were won in Tom Riden Stadium — in 2002 against Greater Atlanta Christian, in 2003 against Charlton County and in 2007 against Lovett.

"Anytime you win a state championship on your field, it can't get bigger than that," Wood said.

Before the Wolves had their new field, they played next to the old Buford High School building.

"There's a lot of great memories from there," Wood said.

"We also won a state championship there in 1978 when we beat Charlton County. The one in '78 was the first ever state championship for Buford."

When the new stadium was built, a piece of the original came with it.

"We have a tower with a bell at the top of it that can be rung when we win," he said. "We built a new tower and had the old bell transferred."

And with a new stadium came new traditions — the Wolves streaming from their tunnel onto the turf to the sound of "Gloryland."

"The cheerleaders have the big run-through to the sidelines, the playing of the band and the cheering of the fans. We have a video scoreboard system where we can show video," Wood said. "We have a highlight tape of the biggest plays in Buford history ... if it's around 7 p.m. and it's at home, people know the ‘Gloryland' video is played. It's a four-minute salute to Buford history and tradition."

Head Coach Jess Simpson said the players enjoy the pregame rituals.

"I think another tradition for us is our gold helmets. We don't put any stickers or anything on them, they're just gold," he said.

Simpson said the gold helmets came from Buford High School's integration, combining the green from one school and the gold from the other.

Buford fans have their own pregame customs.

"We always have a huge tailgating crowd," Simpson said.

"We got a group of community men an dads that come and cook ... In our community, it has a small-town feel on Friday nights ... Many players come back and it's like they never left."

These former players include tight end Tyrone Sorrells, who played for both Georgia and Georgia Tech and went on to be drafted by the New Orleans Saints; Michael "Pop" Carson, tailback, now the head coach at Martin Luther King Jr. High School; wide receiver P.K. Sam, who played for Florida State, the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins; and running back Darius Walker, who played three seasons at Notre Dame.

Two more recent Wolves, offensive guard Dallas Lee and defensive tackle Omar Hunter, were drafted by the Georgia and Florida, respectively.

The two played against each other in the Georgia-Florida game Saturday.

"They were swapping paint with one another on a big stage," Simpson said. "It's fun for us as coaches to see them go on and achieve and play."

Though many of Buford's rivals live outside of Hall County, such as Greater Atlanta Christian, Calhoun and Lovett, there are a few in the county lines.

"Gainesville's been a good time, a good rivalry," Wood said. "We've also played North Hall before and we have great respect for that program. A few years back we were in the region with East Hall and we played them a couple times."

No matter who they're playing or what division, the pride behind being a Buford Wolf remains.

"I think the biggest thing is you're representatives, ambassadors of sorts for the great football tradition in the community that loves and supports it so much. You're honored to represent so many people in this community," Wood said.

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