Buford defensive linemen have been harassing opposing quarterbacks all season long. Now the hard-hitting, fast-talking unit is back on a familiar stage: the state championship game.
In their first year in Class AAAA, the Wolves face St. Pius X at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. A victory would deliver Buford’s seventh state title in eight seasons across three classifications.
Quay Picou, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior defensive tackle, said Buford’s mentality is vital to its success along the line of scrimmage.
The Wolves are allowing a miniscule five points per game this season.
“We’re not afraid of anybody,” Picou said. “We’re going to come out and attack no matter who it is, no matter how big they are. We’re going to do the same thing over and over — big, small, no matter what. Everybody’s going to get hit.”
The Wolves defensive line has excelled with a unit that looks like a college line, which makes sense as the group is flowing with top-level offers. Picou (Tennessee) and senior defensive end Tyler Shipman (Akron) have already committed, with junior defensive tackle Shug Frazier and junior defensive end/tight end Isaac Nauta boasting numerous SEC offers.
For now, though, these Buford linemen are enjoying their latest chase for a state championship. They’re not afraid to do a little talking along the way.
“We do a pretty good job of a little bit of smack talking,” senior defensive end Jordan Perlotte said. “We don’t like it when people don’t talk back.
“We love it when people talk back. That means we’re going to come back and hit you in the mouth again. That’s how we play.”
Perlotte has a team-high six sacks and nine quarterback pressures.
Nauta said each part of the line provides a different challenge for opponents. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Frazier is “hard to move” and Picou is “just an athlete at 270.” Then, Nauta added, “we’ve got speed on the edge.”
It’s a dangerous combination, according to Frazier.
“We can get you from anywhere,” Frazier said. “We can get you from the edge, the inside. You really don’t have anywhere to move in the pocket.”
Nauta has totaled five sacks and nine quarterback pressures, while Frazier has tallied four sacks and a team-best 11 quarterback pressures.
Perlotte, Nauta, Frazier, Picou and Shipman have combined for 220 tackles, including 18 tackles for loss and 17 sacks.
They said the group has friendly competition about who finishes with the most sacks or tackles, but it’s all in good fun.
“We don’t really focus on that here because no matter what, if any one of us makes a play, we’re all going to be celebrating like we made the play,” Picou said.
Nauta finished off one such play for Buford in a 35-14 second-round win against Mary Persons. Frazier and Perlotte stopped the quarterback’s feet, causing him to turn around. Nauta was there to make the sack on what Frazier called “an amazing hit.”
Nauta appreciates the way the linemen relish each other’s success.
“We’ve all got such amazing chemistry that it makes it fun to play with each other on Fridays,” Nauta said.
Shipman echoed that assessment.
“We just feed off each other,” Shipman said. “And it makes the whole game easier.”
Perlotte said strength and power coordinator Stan Luttrell, who was head coach at Chestatee for eight seasons and spent two seasons before that at Union County, does a good job of helping the guys gain strength in the weight room without compromising their flexibility and speed. He noted the importance of footwork for the Buford defensive line. Frazier and Shipman said the Wolves’ coaches stress the importance of technique.
Both Picou and Frazier have returned a fumble for a touchdown this season.
There’s a certain trust that comes with playing alongside committed, talented teammates.
“You really don’t have to worry about the guy next to you messing up or knowing that he can help you get pressure on the quarterback,” Frazier said. “We have talent all the way across the line. Everybody is pretty versatile. We can play pretty much any position.”
It will be the final game as a Buford player for Nauta, who plans to move to Florida before his senior season. He said it’s been a great three years and he’s thankful for work the coaches have done with him. His goal now is to add to his two state championship rings in his final outing as a part of this defensive line.
“It’s going to be huge. I can’t wait for it,” Nauta said. “I’m definitely not going out with anything less than a win for my last game. I’m going to do everything I possibly can to make it happen.”