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Buford loaded with a bruising backfield
No. 1 Wolves play host to third-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian on Friday
Buford’s Andre Johnson is taken down by several Lovett players during a game on Sept. 23 in Buford - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

Buford vs. Greater Atlanta Christian

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

On radio: 550-AM

BUFORD - Vadal Alexander says he has one the best jobs of all for No. 1 Buford. Alexander, a 340-pound senior offensive tackle, takes pleasure in getting to blow open running lanes and watch the Wolves' ball carriers go to work.

The running game is a trademark for Buford (8-0, 2-0 Region 6A-AA), which has claimed four consecutive state titles in Class AA.

The Wolves are expected to get their final test of the regular season against No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian (7-0, 2-0) Friday at Tom Riden Stadium.

"I love blocking for them," said Alexander, a Louisiana State University verbal commit. "Our running backs all have great vision, and I think the best think about them is they all pick up yards after contact."

For those who know Buford's history, this is another great example of how the Wolves like to take control of a football game with depth and skill at the running back position.

It's not fancy or new age. The Wolves take pride in playing smash-mouth football.

Through eight games, the Wolves have 2,264 yards at an average of about 8 yards per carry. The majority of the carries are shared between senior Andre Johnson (565 yards, 9.1 yards per attempt), Darrian Smith (333 yards, 6.5 yards per carry), and Dontravious Wilson (311 yards, 12.4 yard average).

Senior Rick Legrant and Nathan Staub have each scored five touchdowns this season rushing for Buford, which has produced 79 percent of its yards on the ground.

"We have incredible depth and a lot of guys who are all prepared to go out there and play," Staub said. "It's all about playing as a team."

All involved know that their success on offense is equal parts talent at running back and blocking up front.

Running out of the I-formation, both the running back and fullback both need a clear running lane if they're going to move the football successfully.

Buford coach Jess Simpson sees a great chemistry between all the players involved.

He doesn't see any conflicts either with players demanding more carries, which is also important since the Wolves have used as many as 17 ball carriers in a single game.

The Wolves have scored 38 rushing touchdowns spread out among 13 different players.

"I think we're doing a good job of protecting, our backs are running the ball really well," Simpson said. "They're all so unselfish about it.

"They just want what is best for the team."

The Wolves don't routinely go for the big play or long pass. They just steadily and methodically run the ball down the field.

Eventually, after pounding the line of scrimmage play after play, Buford wears down the opposing defense.

"It definitely wouldn't be fun to be on the other team," Staub said.

Johnson, whose season high of 179 yards came against Lovett, is probably regarded as the most dangerous with the ball in his hands.

At 220 pounds, he possesses a rare combination of size and speed. Staub compares Johnson to Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner.

"I haven't seen another guy that thick, but still run like a track guy," Staub said.

For his part, Johnson says he's trying to score each and every time he gets the ball in his hands. He's scored a team-high 10 touchdowns this season, including a long of 59 yards.

Johnson loves the prospects of a close, hard-fought game against Greater Atlanta Christian. He feels like the offense is more than up for the challenge of facing a Spartans defense that has held the opposing offense to 14 points or less five times this season.

Meanwhile, Buford is yet to be challenged; the Wolves have won every game by at least four touchdowns this season.

"Our running game is crucial to what we do and I feel like we're getting better every week," Johnson said.

Each week, the carries are spread out a little bit differently, but the results are still similar. Against Gainesville, the Wolves had 13 different ball carriers combine for 360 yards on the ground.

Then against No. 4 Carver-Columbus (6-1), Johnson's three touchdowns paced a 253-yard rushing effort for the Wolves.

Johnson scored two touchdowns as part of a season-high 400 rushing yards racked up by the Wolves against Lovett.

Against Decatur, Rick Legrant only carried the ball twice, but scored both times (13 and 52 yards) as the Wolves rushed for 250 yards (10 yards per attempt.)
"They all just have a knack for making big plays," Alexander said.