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Buford claims another state title with 10-3 win
Wolves' defense Buford stuffs St. Pius to claim Class AAA state title, its 8th in 12 years
St. Pius quarterback Jack Spear gets swarmed by Buford defenders Friday during the first half of their Class AAA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.

Wolves overcome year of adversity

Wolves 10, Golden Lions 3

Difference maker: Buford running back Dontravious Wilson scored the only touchdown of the game.

Stat that matters: The Wolves held St. Pius X to 195 yards of total offense.

Turning point: Tied 3-3 early in the fourth quarter, Wilson ran for a 39-touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play.

ATLANTA – Buford never deviated from what works best, though it was tough sledding for much of the way against St. Pius X in Friday’s Class AAA state championship game at The Georgia Dome. 

The Wolves were hemmed up running the ball for much of the night, but came up with the biggest play of the game via a Dontravious Wilson run early in the fourth quarter.

With the score tied, Wilson, a senior, took the ball outside and turned the ball upfield on the fourth-and-1 play for a 39-yard touchdown run and the deciding score for a 10-3 Wolves win. 

“That run will go down as one of the greatest runs in Buford history,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “What a play.”

With the win, Buford (12-3) has won five out of the last six state titles, even with the move up one level to Class AAA this season, and eight titles in 12 seasons. 

“This state championship means a lot,” Wilson said. “People doubted us all season and we were able to show we could get it done.”

Wilson’s touchdown run was the game’s longest of the night in a battle of two superior defenses. Buford rushed for 114 yards and finished with 156 yards of total offense. 

The Wolves’ defense held the Golden Lions to just 195 yards.

“That was a battle of two great (Class AAA) defenses,” Simpson added. “The resolve of our players was something special. 

“I tip my hat to our seniors for doing a great job.”

With the score tied 3-3 and only seconds left in the third quarter, Buford set up its touchdown drive at the ball at its own 35. Almost right away, the Wolves went to Wilson, who picked up 13 with a run on the second play of the drive. Then Buford quarterback Taylor Mitchell hit Tre’ Neal for gains of 6 and 3 yards on consecutive plays. That set the Wolves up with the fourth-and-1. 

On the handoff, Wilson took the ball to the corner and ran untouched past the Golden Lions’ defense for the game’s only touchdown with 9:26 left in the game. Wilson finished with a team-high 66 rushing yards.

On St. Pius X’s final drive, quarterback Jack Spears hit J.P. Graves on a pass for a gain of 16, pushing the ball into Buford territory. However, Buford’s defense rose up with a pair of coverage sacks to keep the Lions from scoring. 

Ryan Braswell led the Golden Lions on offense with 72 yards rushing.

Trailing 3-0 out of halftime, St. Pius X drove just 35 yards, which was just enough for kicker Thomas O’Leary, who drilled a 47-yard field goal to tie the score. Spear had the Golden Lions’ biggest play of the drive with a gain of 17 on a run. 

Buford played good defense in St. Pius X territory by knocking away a pair of passes on second and third downs, forcing the field goal.

Late in the opening half, Buford did an excellent job of moving down the field and scoring the first points of the game on a Matthew Bonadies field goal with 10 seconds left in the half. The Wolves’ final drive of the half started with 1:33 left and was aided by a 21-yard gain running by Zavior Hoxie on the second play. 

A Thomas Wilson run of 8 and 7-yard pass completion from quarterback Montgomery VanGorder to tight end Mikey Bart, in addition to 10 more yards on a holding call against St. Pius X’s defense, set up the long Wolves’ field goal from the middle of the field, which had just enough distance from Bonadies to clear the crossbar.

Buford had trouble moving the ball the majority of the opening half. The Wolves’ first drive was extended after a roughing-the-kicker call against the Golden Lions. Even after the first down, Buford was forced to punt three plays later. Facing a third and 4, Buford quarterback Taylor Mitchell was sacked by St. Pius X’s Dalton Wilson for a 6-yard loss. 

The Wolves also fumbled on third and short late in the second period, before regaining possession with enough time to drive 51 yards to make Bonadies’ kick possible.

To open the game, St. Pius X opened with a time-consuming drive that lasted 12 plays and took 8:05 off of the clock. Spear completed a pair of pair of passes on third and long to keep the drive alive, the longest a 20-yard completion to junior running back Nick Ruffin. With 4:10 left in the opening quarter, Braswell ran for 10 of third and 11, but lost a yard on fourth and 1 on the following play. 

After its first drive of the game, St. Pius X failed to generate another first down in the first half.

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