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Buford defense comes up big late, beat Carrollton 34-27 in Class AAAAA quarterfinals
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Buford's Christian Turner (5) runs the ball against Carrollton in the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals on Friday at Tom Riden Stadium. The Wolves won 34-27. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The Buford Wolves are made for the playoffs as 11 state titles since 2001 would attest. That experience helped them against a game Carrollton Trojans club that wouldn’t back down as the Wolves made just enough plays in the second half to pull out a 34-27 win Friday in the quarterfinal round of the Class AAAAA playoffs at Tom Riden Stadium.

Christian Turner’s 250 yards on 15 carries led the second-ranked Wolves (12-1) as he exploded for touchdown runs of 63 and 89 yards in the first half, and 26 and 31 in the second half.

Quarterback Mic Roof completed 8-of-15 passes for 106 yards but was 6-for-7 in the second half for 91 yards as he led the Wolves to touchdowns on their first three drives of the second half as Buford outgained No. 3 Carrollton by over 200 yards (433 to 226).

“Just getting our kids to believe in our tradition and knowing we’re built for this, “Buford head coach Jess Simpson said of their ability to win close playoff games after rarely being tested during the regular season.

“Credit our assistant coaches and seniors for this. It’s not easy. It never is. It’s not easy on Saturday’s in college or Sunday’s for the pros. It’s just about how you respond to what you can control and I thought our kids did a great job of that tonight.”

With the win, Buford hosts Kell in the state semifinals on Friday at Tom Riden Stadium.

In the first half, Turner scored on 63 and 89 yard scores with the latter coming on a third and 16 on the first play of the second quarter, giving the Wolves a 13-3 lead.

“I had to use my 4.3 speed on that one,” Turner said of his 89 yard run. “I have to give credit to my offensive line and tight ends as they created seams for me.”

If not for the fumbled and blocked punts, Carrollton might not have scored at all as they totaled just 96 first half yards.

After a Carrollton punt to open the second half, Roof led Buford down the field on a five-play, 66-yard drive that included a 28-yard pass off a bootleg to his brother, TD Roof.

Turner ran it in on a score of 26 yards to give the Wolves a 19-13 lead after a blocked extra point. After another short drive by the Trojans, the Wolves got the ball back at midfield and Roof capitalized as Turner rushed around left end for a 31 yard score to give the Wolves a 27-13 lead after a two point pass by Roof to tight end Jake Simpson.

The Trojans wouldn’t go away however as they would score twice in the second half behind quarterback Max Wright who completed 15-of-29 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. He was also their leading rusher as he carried 14 times for 45 yards.

Their leading rusher during the regular season, Jaylan Thomas, was held to 41 yards on 10 carries. He did score on a 16 yard swing pass to bring the Trojans to within 27-20 with just under a minute remaining in the third quarter on a 13-play, 70-yard drive in which the slippery Wright evaded numerous tackles for loss and sacks to make a play.

After TD Roof scored on a 13-yard run with 9:45 remaining to give the Wolves a 34-20 lead, Carrollton countered with an eight-play, 64-yard drive in which Wright found wide receiver Thomas Cullwell on a 17-yard pass on a run pass option in which a Buford corner back came up when he thought Wright was going to run the ball.

That would conclude the scoring as the Wolves sacked Wright twice on their final two drives. Defensive lineman Zac Waters had those two sacks that forced punts for the Wolves.

“In the second half, we just wanted to come out fast after making a few adjustments at halftime and I thought we played great,” Simpson said.

The Wolves had the ball at their own 40 and at midfield on their final two possessions but were snuffed out on six plays.

“You have to tip your hat to that Carrollton team, they had the size and skill advantage on us,” Simpson said. “What Coach Calhoun has been able to do in one year over there is unbelievable.”

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