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Buford football team rolls into 2nd round behind established running game
The Wolves host Worth County Friday at 7:30 p.m.
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Buford's Christian Turner (5) dodges a tackle while running the ball downfield during the Buford vs. Stephens County game for the 8-AAAA championship title at Buford High School on Nov. 6. - photo by Erin O. Smith

In 2012, the Buford Wolves’ football team started two streaks that lasted into the 2015 season. The first, a 42-game winning streak. The other, a three-year stretch of being crowned state champions.

Friday night, when the Wolves (10-1) welcome Worth County High into Tom Riden Stadium, they will be tasked with trying to fend off an 8-3 team to keep the championship stint alive.

Looking to extend a newly-minted eight-game winning streak, Buford has to “respect the team we’re playing,” according to sophomore running back Christian Turner.

Still, Buford will stay true to itself and what sustained the runs of wins and championships.

“We just need to do what we’ve done all year,” Turner said. “We need to run the ball hard and keep playing like we have been. We’re going to keep practicing hard and practice the same way we have for every team.”

The Wolves are fresh off a 35-0 victory in their first-round state playoff game against Fayette County, in which they relied on backup quarterback Will Westmoreland to lead them to victory. That he did.

Senior receiver/defensive back R.J. Walker said the team battled behind Westmoreland and “he did just what he needed to to get the W.”

Moving into the second round for the 17th consecutive season, senior running back/defensive back Martin Mangram said it’s a great feeling to be able to make it back there.

The Wolves will be dealing with a Wing-T offense that boasts just shy of 4,000 rushing yards this season.

“They’re a fast, Wing-T team,” Mangram said. “Looks like they have a lot of momentum going for them off their last playoff game and the regular season. I think they’ll be a good matchup for us.”

The Rams are entering the game on a winning streak of their own with victories in their last five games.

Worth County is averaging nearly 37 points per contest and has three shutout wins this season, including the in the first round against Locust Grove.

Leading the Rams’ running attack are senior Justin Hope, junior Chris McDaniel and senior Dontavious Buford.

Hope has carried the ball 173 times for 1,315 yards and 16 touchdowns. Four times he has rushed for more than 100 yards.

McDaniel has 1,290 yards and six games of more than 100 yards. Worth County’s Buford has 1,016 yards and three games of more than 100 yards. Both have 12 scores apiece.

The only other player on the Worth County roster to have a rushing touchdown is senior quarterback Gerome Williams, with three.

Under center, Williams has only attempted 51 passes all season.

“We’ve watched them on film,” Walker said. “They’ve got some pretty good players, but we’ve got some players too.”

Turner and Mangram are members of a committee of running backs put in rotation for the Wolves.

Turner has carried the ball 56 times for 467 yards and eight touchdowns.

Mangram is the second highest on the team in terms of rushing hards with 537 on 73 carries. He also has the most scores with 18.

Anthony Grant leads the team in rushing yards with 642.

The Wolves boast three other players with more than 100 yards on the ground.

Despite not having a single ball carrier over the 1,000-yard mark, the Wolves have scored 10 more rushing touchdowns than the Rams.

All season, the Wolves has allowed just five touchdowns and 476 yards on the ground, which is only 43 yards per game.

Since the Wolves loss to McEachern in the third game of the season, they have shutout five teams, including its last two games - Stephens County in a de facto region championship game and the first-round win over Fayette County. In the

other three games, the Wolves have allowed 18 total points.

The momentum of the current winning streak and the high level of play is something Mangram said needs to be carried over each week to avoid a letdown.

“I think we just need to carry it and improve,” Mangram said. “Each playoff round the teams are getting better. We can’t have a lull or we’ll get upset. We’ve just got to keep improving every week.”

The Rams and the Wolves will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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