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Buford pulls away from Kell in Class AAAAA semifinal, advance to football championship game
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Buford's Anthony Grant (3) runs the ball after quarterback Mic Roof (11) hands the ball off to him during Friday's Class AAAAA state semifinal game against Kell at Tom Riden Stadium. - photo by Erin O. Smith

T.D. Roof spoke for the entire Buford football program when he said last year’s state championship loss left a bad taste in their mouths.

Instead of using words, he let one play say it all to give the No. 2 ranked Wolves an added spark to oust No. 6 Kell by a 28-16 decision in the Class AAAAA semifinal at Tom Riden Stadium.

With the win,  the Wolves head to Atlanta next Friday at 4:30 p.m. for a shot at state title No. 12 when they play Rome. The opposing Wolves defeated Stockbridge 28-21.

“I got a lot of emotions. I have emotions as a dad. You know, my youngest son’s a senior on this team, and to be able to finish it off next Friday at the Dome and have this opportunity, is just really special,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “As a head coach of an incredible group of seniors, knowing what they put in and knowing how hard it is to get there. ... I’m proud of my boys.”

Roof performed in all three phases to help the Wolves get back to the Georgia Dome for the 10th-straight year. He rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns, recovered an onside kick in the final minutes, and added a crucial sack on Kell’s final drive. His second touchdown was decidedly the game changer in a four-point game with 5:58 left to play.

The senior fullback/linebacker took a handoff on a fourth-and-1 on Buford’s 41-yard-line, spun off two defenders and the rest was magic.

He turned what would have been a negative play into a 58-yard dash to the endzone to give the Wolves a 21-10 lead.

“They just got the edge sealed, and I spun one time and saw some open grass, and I took it,” said Roof of the moment.

“I don’t know how it happened, but I’m glad it did.”

Roof converted all three of Buford’s fourth-down attempts, but gave most of the credit to the offensive and defensive line play in the win.

“I was excited we got the first down. I didn’t want them to have the ball in our territory. Cause obviously, when you don’t make it, you can second-guess yourself. But man, he’s just a great competitor, and it’s not the first time he’s done it, and hopefully won’t be the last,” Simpson said.

Roof continued his charge after Lampley capped the Longhorns’ longest drive of the night with a 6-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jared Hill to bring it to 21-16. He dismissed a two-point conversion by knocking the ball out of quarterback John Lampley’s (9 of 20, 83 yards, 2 touchdowns) hands from behind. It was after a successful conversion pass was negated due to a holding penalty.  

“He can make a play when you gotta have one. And he’s a heck of a football player,” Simpson added.

The Wolves iced the game on a handful of plays. Running back Christian Turner (137 yards, touchdown) burned the Longhorns on back-to-back runs, the first a 43-yard scamper to Kell’s 8, and then finishing the job with a 3-yard plunge for his only score of the night with 2:11 left. Mikey McMorris picked off Lampley to end the Longhorn’s final charge, and their season.

The Wolves are now winners of 31-straight under the lights of Tom Riden Stadium.

As for the Longhorns, they go home with an 11-3 record. Head coach Derek Cook shared a few hugs and words of encouragement for a group that led the program to the semifinals for just the second time in 14 years. He feels they are not far behind Buford in becoming that next big perennial power.

“Can’t say enough for our kids. They are very resilient. They were outsized considerably, but that didn’t deter our guys — guts, heart determination — at all. Couple of plays here and there, and maybe we’re not crying right now," Cook said.

The Wolves as a unit outgained the Longhorns 342-172. Kell running back Josiah Futral, who rushed for 100 or more yards in the first three rounds, was held to 54 yards on 14 carries and no touchdowns.

The Wolves only led by four at the half. But they had already racked up 183 total yards against a towering defensive front, while holding a reputably balanced Longhorns attack to just 95 total yards.

Both teams traded punts to start the opening quarter, though it was the Longhorns that got the early jump. DJ Owens took Buford’s first punt of the game, and the crowd erupted as he weaved and scampered for a 44-yard punt return down to Buford’s 16-yard line.

But the Longhorns had to settle for a 25-yard field goal at the 6:38 mark.

The Wolves quickly responded by doing what they do best.

They used back-to-back six-minute touchdown drives of 13 and 15 plays, also coming through in the clutch on some gutsy conversions.

The Wolves’ first gamble paid off, converting a fourth-and-2 on Kell’s 29-yard-line before Anthony Grant (46 yards, TD) found the end zone from 15 yards out four plays later. He stumbled through a Longhorn’s would-be-tackler and found his footing just in time to punch in the Wolves’ first score.

After forcing a Longhorns’ punt to start the second quarter, they came right back with another run-heavy charge.

Quarterback Mic Roof (6 of 10, 41 yards) came through on multiple occasions, first converting a third-and-8 with a 13-yard pass completion off-balanced to Grant on a screen.

Roof then used his feet to convert a third-and-13, three plays after a 29-yard dash by T.D. Roof to Kell’s 27 was belittled by an offensive unsportsmanlike call.

T.D. Roof finished the deed with a 1-yard run five plays later at the four-minute mark.

The Wolves’ only sign of mortality came on a brief slipup with a muffed snap on fourth down, resulting in a short punt.

Quarterback Lampley capitalized on the short field with 25 seconds left in the half, finding wideout Jackson Gehman in the end zone for a 27-yard strike.

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