BUFORD — Buford High's run to a fourth straight Class AA championship got off on the right foot Friday with a convincing 52-22 victory over Hart County in the opening round of the playoffs at Tom Riden Stadium.
The second-ranked Wolves (10-1) powered their way into the second round with another dominating game on the ground and its usual defensive muscle. Dominique Swope and Andrew Sciara both scored twice, and Buford jumped out to a 38-0 halftime lead over the visiting Bulldogs.
Buford plays host to Callaway at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Callaway defeated Rockmart 30-8 in opening round.
Eric Barr ran three times for 95 yards, 82 coming on a second-quarter touchdown run that ended up being the winning score. Swope had 72 yards on three carries, and Sciara carried six times for 75 yards. Those numbers would be great for receivers; for running backs it borders on phenomenal.
"Man, our linemen were doing a great job opening holes for us all night," said Swope, a senior. Both of his scoring runs, 21 and 48 yards, came on power runs up the middle of the Hart County defensive line. "They really played well. We all did. That's what we do this time of year."
Seon Jones had a 1-yard score, and Andre Johnson scored on a 7-yard rumble after he recovered a Hart County fumble following Barr's touchdown run.
Sciara scored on runs of 26 and 17 yards, again both up the middle. Only Barr's run, a counter play to the right sideline, went outside.
"We thought we could have some success in the middle," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "They were fast, aggressive and liked to get up the field. I thought we could run at them but didn't know if we could run around them."
As gaudy as Buford's defensive numbers were in the regular season, they were even better Friday, at least in the first half. The Wolves limited Hart County to 64 yards in the first half and allowed just one third-down conversion on eight tries. On the flip side, Hart County earned four first downs in the opening two quarters, all but one on its final drive of the first half that ended with a fourth-down incompletion.
"We were close (to perfect)," Buford junior lineman Dequan Clark said. "We spent a lot of time this week on situational scripts — what they would do on first down, second down and third down. Things played out how we thought."
The Bulldogs did try to make a game of it in the second half.
Tyler Barber caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from Landon Beck, who also scored on a 1-yard plunge in the third quarter. Stephon Eades added a 2-yard run in the final period.
As a three-time defending state champion, it's hard for Buford not to look ahead toward the state championship with three more games between now and then.
Swope, Barr and Clark all admitted that it's hard not to think about returning to Atlanta and the Georgia Dome for the state championship game. Sure it's the goal, but haven't you ever heard of the cart and horse?
"Everyone is targeting us," Clark said. "We have a big target on our backs, so we need to come out strong every game like we did tonight."
Added Barr, "Everyone's goal and expectation is to get back to the Dome and the final. But we can't worry about that. We just focus on ourselves."