Wolves 70, Vikings 6
Difference maker: Joshua Thomas’ two scores, one on offense and one on defense, were an early part of the Wolves’ success Friday night.
Stat that matters: The Wolves outrushed the Vikings 337-51.
Turning point: After going up 14-0 with 11:56 until halftime, Buford’s Joshua Thomas returned a Vikings’ fumble 29 yards to put the Wolves up 21-0. It was Thomas’ second touchdown of the game.
Who’s next: Buford is at North Hall. East Hall is home against Fannin County.
BUFORD — The Buford Wolves showed Friday night they’re clicking on all cylinders heading into next week’s Region 7-AAA-clinching game against the North Hall Trojans. The Wolves (9-0, 6-0 Region 7-AAA) defeated the East Hall Vikings (4-5, 1-5) 70-6 at Tom Riden Stadium.
“I knew they (the team) weren't looking ahead,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “I knew they were going to come out. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s football. It’s not a game of perfect. But there was a lot of good out here tonight, a lot to build on.
“We’re certainly excited about a chance to be 10-0 and win a region championship next week.”
The Wolves were led by running back Evyn Cooper who rushed for a game-high 129 yards on two carries, and scoring on both carries.
Running back Thomas Wilson added 62 yards and a touchdown. Joshua Thomas had 41 yards and one touchdown.
Thomas also had a fumble return touchdown for the Wolves’ defense. They recovered three fumbles, recorded two interceptions, one returned 20 yards by Tre’ Neal for a touchdown. They also recorded six sacks.
“They (the defense) played a lot like they have played all year,” Simpson said. “We missed a couple of little things early and made a couple of adjustments.
“The kids did really, really good. That has been the key to our success. We have been able to play great defense, keep the ball in front of us. People have moved the ball a little bit, but we’ve been able to get off the field late in the drives.
“It seemed like tonight we finally got some turnovers. We’ve had a bunch of three-and-outs and played great on third down this year, but we haven’t got the turnovers we’re used to getting.”
The Vikings were led by quarterback Devin Watson who passed for 151 yards and one touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, and rushed for 39 yards.
Wide receiver Milton Whelchel hauled in six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
After forcing a Vikings’ punt on the opening drive, the Wolves’ offense had their work cut out for them, starting their drive from their own 6-yard line. Nine plays later, Thomas punched it in from the 6 to give the Wolves a 7-0 lead with 3:27 left in the first.
After another Vikings’ punt, the Wolves found the end zone again with 11:56 left until halftime when quarterback Montgomery VanGorder connected with running back David Curry on a 15-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing Vikings’ possession, Thomas scooped-and-scored on a 29-yard fumble return to increase the Wolves’ lead to 21-0.
“We came out here and played physical,” Thomas said. “Coach Simpson said he wanted us to play like we played in the second half against Dawson County.
“So I feel like we all came out here. Our scout team gave us a great look in practice. We practiced hard, we practiced fast.”
On the next possession, the Wolves’ offense struck fast, needing just three plays to go 72 yards, capped by running back Donte’ Gordon’s 13-yard touchdown run with 6:16 left until halftime.
On the ensuing Vikings’ possession, Buford linebacker Dillon Lancaster intercepted a Vikings’ pass at the Vikings’ 21-yard line.
Four plays later, the Wolves’ lead was at 35-0 when running back Jordan Pelotte scored from 5 yards out. The Wolves carried that lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Wilson started the attack again for the Wolves’ offense, scoring on a 2-yard run with 8:10 left in the quarter.
Less than a minute later, the Wolves’ defense struck again as Neal returned an interception for a touchdown to give the Wolves a 49-0 lead with 7:31 left in the quarter.
“It was senior night and we had everybody playing for our seniors, and we wanted to leave it all out on the field,” Neal said. “We came out a little bit slow, but we picked it up and started playing really good.”
Cooper scored the first of his two touchdowns with six minutes left in the third, flying 63 yards to the end zone.
“It was a big night,” Cooper said. “We tried to keep everything going because we’re getting ready for the playoffs. We have to build each week and get better on what we’re doing bad on. ... Our coaches always stress to continuously put in effort and do what we need to do to better our team. It’s a good thing.”
The quarter was copped by Xavier Gantt who found the end zone from 19 yards to give the Wolves a 63-0 lead after three quarters.
Watson connected with Whelchel on a 39-yard touchdown strike to put the Vikings on the board with 11:15 left in the game.
On the Wolves’ next possession, Cooper scored on his second and final carry, scoring on a 66-yard run with 10:31 left.
Next week, Buford travels to North Hall. A win makes the Wolves Region 7-AAA champions.
“It’s going to be huge,” Simpson said. “North Hall has got a great program. Coach (Bob) Christmas does a great job with his team. They are big and physical. They have a brand of football and we have a brand of football, and you kind of know what the other is going to do, and it’s just a battle of wills.
“It will be a great atmosphere up there.”
East Hall is home against Fannin County next Friday.