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Buford flexed its muscles. Again.
The top-ranked Wolves scored on every offensive possession but their last, played dominating defense to stifle a potent West Hall offense and cruised to a 63-0 victory on Friday night.
“The last four weeks, since the Gainesville game, we’ve had an improvement plan for each player,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “We’ve had some of the best practices that I’ve been around since I’ve been at Buford. We’ve had some great leadership and we are only at the halfway mark of the regular season, and things just kind of rolled our way tonight.”
The Wolves (5-0, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) scored seven first-half touchdowns and added a score in the third and fourth quarter. They got touchdowns from eight different players, including two from junior Joshua Thomas, to rack up 506 yards of total offense.
Meanwhile, the Buford defense shut out a West Hall offense that came into the night averaging 39 points per game and limited the Spartans (4-2, 2-1) to just 102 yards of total offense.
On nearly every West Hall run attempt, the Buford defense met the ball carries in the backfield, resulting in punts on six of the Spartans’ 10 offensive possessions. When the Spartans wanted to pass, the Wolves brought the pressure to quarterback Zach English, forcing him to throw on the run and with pressure in his face, resulting in one interception that cut a potential scoring drive short.
“We got a great effort from the back, the front and the in-between,” said Simpson, whose defense has posted three straight shutouts.
“I was real proud of that. We played really good defense. These guys have a goal in mind and they want to be special. There have been some great defenses at Buford and these guys want to be one of the best.”
Offensively, Buford averaged over 11 yards per carry, finishing with 247 yards rushing on just 22 carries, while its passing game was one of the sharpest its been all season. Wolves quarterbacks Taylor Mitchell, Montgomery VanGorder and Luke Humphrey combined to complete 9 of 11 passes for 259 yards with four touchdowns, including two from Mitchell.
“We try to spread the ball out to everybody,” Thomas said of the Buford offense. “We try to give everybody a chance and we show the love.”
Buford opened its scoring with a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter. Thomas Wilson scored on a 14-yard run to cap the opening drive. Zavior Hoxie scored on a 10-yard touchdown run later in the quarter.
The Wolves’ scored five touchdowns in the second quarter, building a 49-0 halftime lead and taking any excitement out of a West Hall team that entered the night with a 4-1 record.
Tre’ Neal intercepted English at the Buford 8, and it took the Wolves’ offense just two plays to score. Mitchell hit Thomas out of the backfield and the junior broke loose down the right sideline, crossed the field, received a massive block from Terrance Wilson and finished off an 84-yard touchdown connection.
“I was running down the field and we both made eye contact and I saw the dude and I was like, ‘block him, Terrance. Block him,’” Thomas said of the scoring play.
“If it weren’t for (Wilson), I wouldn’t have scored.”
Then, following a West Hall three-and-out, Buford’s Xavier Gantt sprinted past the West Hall defense for a 29-yard score, making it 28-0.
On the ensuing West Hall possession, Thomas picked up a fumble and returned it 30 yards for the score.
Mitchell threw his second touchdown pass of the half on Buford’s next offensive possession, connecting with David Curry on a 32-yard scoring play, making the score 42-0.
The Wolves’ final score of the half came off the arm of VanGorder, who found Steven Reese on a 23-yard touchdown.
Buford added a score in each the third and fourth quarters.
Evyn Cooper accounted for the Wolves’ score in the third quarter, breaking loose for a 68-yard touchdown run on just the second play of the half.
Then with a running clock in the fourth quarter, Humphrey threw a 59-yard touchdown pass with 8:40 remaining.
“We talk about today and the recipe for our success is staying in the moment,” Simpson said. “It is not worrying about 10 weeks from now. It is worrying about today and what we have to take care of this week.”
Despite the loss, West Hall remains a contender for a playoff spot in Region 7-AAA. The Spartans, who have just one loss in region play, still have games remaining against East Hall, North Hall, White County and Dawson County.
Buford, meanwhile, is on the fast-track to a showdown with undefeated North Hall on the final night of the regular season, a matchup that will likely decide the Region 7-AAA champion.