As good as Buford has been in the past, even Jess Simpson was surprised at how well his team began the 2010 season.
Fresh off their third straight Class AA championship, the top-ranked Wolves scored on their first two plays from scrimmage Friday and went on to rout last year's Class AAA runner-up Gainesville, 40-19 at City Park.
"That was out of left field," Simpson said of the Wolves jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game. "You always hope to start fast, but most nights you don't get to start that fast."
All it took was one play to define Friday's contest between two 2009 state finalists.
After forcing a punt on Gainesville's first possession, Buford's first offensive play of the new season was in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Alex Ross to Michael Lane. On the next offensive snap, Seon Jones took a handoff and went untouched for a 72-yard touchdown to give Buford (1-0) an early, and commanding, 14-0 lead.
"Their fast start kind of shocked us," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "We got big-played tonight, and good defenses don't give up big plays."
Thought of to be the stronger of the two sides of the ball, Gainesville's defense surrendered 347 yards, including 220 on the ground to Buford.
"We have a lot to learn from this game," Miller said. "I'm anxious to see how they respond."
One area Miller can feel better about is at quarterback, as freshman DeShaun Watson played well in his first high school game. Although he did throw three interceptions in the first half — on two he prevented a touchdown by tackling the ball carrier — Watson showed a strong control of the offense by completing 18-of-33 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, and adding 80 yards rushing.
"DeShaun played really well," said Miller, who wavered between starting Watson or junior quarterback Stephen Mason. "We had a lot of guys on offense that did a great job."
Just not as many as Buford.
If it wasn't Jones, who finished with 138 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries, it was the senior Ross, who wasn't asked to pass much. But when he did, he was efficient. Ross finished with 127 yards passing, the majority of those coming off an 81-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Lee in the second quarter that put Buford ahead 33-0.
"We made a lot of mistakes," Miller said. "To come out against a program like Buford and fall behind like that, it creates doubt."
The Red Elephants (0-1) did manage to slow the Buford offense to start the second half, but that was only because half the lights at City Park went out during halftime.
After the 30-minute delay, the Wolves picked right back up to where they were and, although they didn't score, they ran more than six minutes off the clock. Buford capped a nine-play, five-minute drive with Jones' third touchdown of the night on its next possession.
"Seon had an awesome night," Simpson said. "I think he carried our team when we started to get a little tired."
Jones' performance, combined with a defense that forced three turnovers and sacked Watson twice, provides some momentum heading into next week's showdown with No. 2 Carver-Columbus.
"It helps us relax," Simpson said of the big win. "When you play like this, you gain confidence. We can let it all hang out next week and see what happens."
Miller is also anxious to see how his young team responds, only he's on the opposite side of the spectrum.
"This is when you test your character," Miller said. "Do you give up or just lay down?
"I'll give it to the kids, they didn't quit," he added. "This is a disappointing loss, but I thought we would have played better."