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Another semifinal trip for Buford
Wolves own second half in 31-7 win over Carver
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Carver defensive back Kiante Walton breaks a tackle attempt by Buford’s Joshua Thomas and returns an interception for an touchdown in first-half action of Friday’s state quarterfinal playoff game at Memorial Stadium in Columbus. - photo by ROBIN TRIMARCHI

COLUMBUS — Different ingredients yielded the same result for the Buford High football team on Friday night in Columbus.

In a rematch of last season’s Class AA semifinals, Buford trailed heading to the locker room at halftime, but exploded for 28 points in the second half to defeat Carver-Columbus 31-7.

With the win, the Wolves (10-3) advance to the semifinals for the sixth consecutive season. They will face Cartersville, which defeated Thomson 21-13.

An elated coach Jess Simpson spoke after the game about how impressed he was with his players’ ability to come out strong in the second half after trailing at the break for the first time all season.

“Being behind at the half and being able to play lights out in the second half like we did, that’s just incredible,” Simpson said. “That team grew up in the second half. They’ve grown up all season. (Carver’s) just a great team, and this is a tough place to play. To shut them out in the second half — I just can’t say enough about our kids.”

On its first drive coming out of the break, trailing 7-3, the Wolves put together a class Buford-style drive, running the ball on seven straight plays, trading carries between Dontravious Wilson and Joshua Thomas into Carver territory. Wilson carried for 6 yards, then Thomas for 7, then Wilson again for 4.

Five plays later, after successfully drawing the Tigers defense in, quarterback Montgomery VanGorder hit receiver Isaac Nauta for a 31-yard touchdown to give Buford its first lead of the night.

It took only five plays and less than two minutes for the Wolves to regain possession, forcing a Carver punt.

Then, it was the same formula all over again: Wilson for 9; Wilson for 5; Wilson for 5. Thomas for 4; Wilson for 5.

Running back Donte Gordon spelled the two rushers, taking one handoff on the drive, picking up 22 yards to set the Wolves up inside the Carver 10-yard line. Three plays later, Thomas carried up the middle for a 3-yard score to make Buford’s lead 17-7 with just a second left on the clock in the third.

Carver (11-2) may have been able to get back in the game with a solid drive in response to Buford’s sudden offensive outburst in the third quarter.

On the second play of its drive, though, it fumbled the ball directly into the hands of Bryson Jordan, who spun out of a tackle and returned the ball 32 yards to the end zone to give the Wolves a three-possession lead.

Carver coach Dell McGee praised Buford’s defense, which had to reload the defense after losing the vast majority of it to graduation.

“They reload,” McGee said of the defense after the game. “What they do, they do well. There’s only going to be one happy team at the end of the game.

“We just couldn’t get much movement on offense. That’s a testament to (Buford). They did a great job.”

In all, Buford outgained Carver 331-124 in the game. The Wolves had 254 on the ground, the vast majority of which went to Wilson.

Wilson was hobbled with a knee injury coming into the game, though he got 10 carries in the team’s win against North Oconee last Friday.

Before the game, Simpson said Wilson was going to try to go, and they would run the back as far as he could go.

It turned out, that was quite a ways. Wilson carried 27 times for 128 yards and completed his night with a 3-yard touchdown run to complete the score with just under three minutes left in the game.

“Coach asked me if I was ready to carry the load this week, and I just said, ‘Give me the ball,’” said Wilson, who is committed to play at Western Kentucky. “The line made a lot of holes for me, and I was able to take advantage.”

Carver picked up its lone touchdown in the game on a second-quarter interception. Cornerback Kiante Walton picked off Buford quarterback Taylor Mitchell and returned the ball 68 yards for a score. It was the first interception Buford has thrown all season.

After the win, neither Simpson nor his team was quite ready to turn their attention toward next week.

“We’re not worried about them yet,” Simpson said with a smile. “We’re going to enjoy the ride home tonight.”

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