Buford vs. Jefferson County
When: 7:30 Friday
Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
BUFORD - Buford senior linebacker Nathan Staub feels like the product the Wolves put on the field speaks for itself. Class AA's top-ranked Wolves (11-0), who play host to Jefferson County (8-3) in the second round of the playoffs Friday, are a team blessed with great leadership and talent, he says. The numbers back that up.
This year, the four-time defending state champs have dominated on offense, defense and special teams. The only category that the Wolves trail in on the stat sheet is penalties.
Statistically, Buford even ranks ahead offensively (46.8 points per game) and just slightly behind defensively (5.2 allowed per game) when pitted head to head with the previous leader in both categories at the school: the 2007 state champs.
So, it begs asking: Is this Wolves team the best in Buford history?
"I tend to lean that way," Staub said. "There have been some incredible football teams here at Buford and left an incredible legacy to live up to."
While Wolves coach Jess Simpson is well aware of the numbers, he's not going to judge this year's program quite yet with hopefully four more weeks remaining in the postseason.
"November and December is when Buford football is judged," said Simpson, who has a 92-4 overall record since becoming head coach in 2005.
As coach, Simpson is far less enamored by what the Wolves' stats say. He focuses on three categories: Stopping the run, being able to run the ball and covering kicks.
"There's a lot of important information that you can get from looking at the stats," Simpson said, "but at the end of the day, it's not based on that."
Buford athletic director Dexter Wood agrees that it's too early to slap that kind of label on this year's team, even though it's certainly possible it could pan out that the 2011 Wolves are the best when all is said and done.
"You can't say that it's the best Buford team the school's had yet," said Wood, who coached the Wolves to three state title between 1995-2004. "There have been so many great teams here, especially over the past 10 years."
It would be impossible to single out one area where Buford has been most dominant this year. Through the regular season, the Wolves scored 466 points and put the ball in the end zone on 60 percent of their possessions.
Running the ball has, as always, been the Wolves' forte with 8.1 yards per attempt and about 32 run plays per game.
Buford's defense managed to match that effort down for down every Friday night.
The Wolves allowed 44 points total through the first 10 games and touchdowns on only five percent of the opposition's drives with only one field goal.
"Our defensive line is incredible," said Staub, who has been in the school system for five years. "We always get 11 hats to the ball on defense."
Wolves senior defensive back Ryan Dillard feels like it's an honor to be compared to those state champions at the school.
He says that comparing teams is a subject that comes up regularly, but one where there is no clear-cut answer.
"It's just a blessing to know there's that tradition behind you," Dillard said. "All we focus on is coming out to practice, working hard and put it in God's hands."
Even though the legacy of this year's team at Buford may still be in question, Wood says that this is the most talented.
The Wolves have 11 players listed by Rivals.com as college prospects, five of which are already verbally committed to a Southeastern Conference or Atlantic Coast Conference school.
Buford also has about 30 seniors listed on its roster, which is quite a lot for any smaller-classification high school.
"Talent wise, I don't think there's any question that this is the best program here at Buford," Wood said. "But we still have hopefully four more games to play and there's some very good football teams out there before we can win the state title.
"That's the standard where all teams are judged here."