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Buford battling another heavyweight
Carver-Columbus packs plenty of punch
Buford’s Josh Cardiello, left, pushes teammate Robert Contreras back during football practice at Buford High School Wednesday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

High school football previews: Week 2

Holloway: things will get better for Gainesville

Buford at Carver-Columbus

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Memorial Stadium, Columbus

Radio: 550-AM

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Carver, Dell McGee

Records: Buford (1-0, 0-0 Region 6A-AA), Carver (1-0, 0-0 5-AA)

Key players: Buford, LB Nathan Staub (6-3, 220 Jr.), RB Seon Jones (5-9, 180 Sr.), QB Alex Ross (6-2, 195 Sr.). Carver, DT Gabriel Wright (6-3, 280 Sr.), RB Isaiah Crowell (5-11, 190 Sr.), LB Robert Wright (6-2, 225 Sr.).

Prediction: BUFORD. Even though a loss wouldn’t put any kind of damper on the Wolves’ season, they don’t drive 150 miles to endure a loss.

Many will argue that tonight’s matchup of Class AA’s top-ranked Buford and No. 2-ranked Carver-Columbus is the top game on the high school football schedule for the entire season. Though separated by 150 miles, the three-time defending state champion Wolves (1-0) will make the trip down to Columbus’ Memorial Stadium for the game against former Class AAA power, Carver (1-0), which dropped down to Class AA this season.

This game is viewed as a great opportunity at Buford, not a challenge to their spot in the polls.

“We’re super excited,” Buford junior linebacker Nathan Staub said. “The game is going to be at a huge stadium; there will be a great atmosphere with lots of fans.

“Who wouldn’t want to play the best out there?”

To give the game even more of a playoff atmosphere, students at Buford are on an early release today (not in conjunction with the game) and the school is taking chartered buses for fans to support the program.

“This is going to be a really big game,” Buford running back Seon Jones said. “It’s another great team we are playing on our schedule.”

Buford coach Jess Simpson scheduled the game during the offseason with a vacancy staring his team in the face during Week 2. He called down to Carver coach Dell McGee, a former Auburn football teammate, and worked out the logistics to get these teams together.

Simpson knows that it is best to get experience playing teams like Carver during the regular season, since this could be a possible playoff matchup in November, or even in the Georgia Dome for the state finals.

Buford constructed one of the more challenging schedules early in the season with a scrimmage against Clarke Central (a 2009 Class AAAA state finalist), Week 1’s big win against Gainesville (a 2009 Class AAA state finalist), and now Carver, which defeated Spencer 63-0 in the season opener.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a team that opens with a tougher schedule,” Simpson said. “The reason we do it is to be prepared when the playoffs come around.”

“It’s a tough schedule we play,” Jones added. “Coach Simpson wanted to do this to see how tough we are and how hard we’re willing to work.”

The Wolves passed the first test of the season with flying colors by defeating the Red Elephants, 40-19. Simpson was equally impressed with the way his program handled the variable of an unexpected time delay at City Park when a bank of lights went off causing a 30-minute break in action.

“I think our team showed some maturity during that delay and stayed focused,” Simpson said. “I’ve noticed that we are playing fast, but we can play harder.

“We’re nowhere near a finished product yet.”

Tonight’s game will either expose weaknesses the Wolves may have or highlight team strengths.

The Tigers are led by Isaiah Crowell, ranked the second best player in the state and No. 4 tailback in the nation by Last week, he rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns in only first-half action.

There’s no getting around it, for Buford to win they have to contain Crowell.

“He’s got all the tools,” Simpson said. “He’s got the power to get through a tackle and the speed to get past defenders on the edge.

“We have to make sure to get population to the football to stop him.”

On the other side of the ball, Carver is anchored by tackle Gabriel Wright, ranked No. 7 in the nation at that position. Buford hopes to use its speed to counter the strength that the entire Tigers defensive front brings to the table.

“Our offensive line has looked excellent,” Staub said. “I also think we have a really fast defense.”

Next week, Buford opens up Region 6-AA play against Westminster at Tom Riden Stadium.

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