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Buford's football team aiming for fourth consecutive title
Wolves (13-1) face unbeaten Cartersville (14-0) in Class AAAA championship game
Buford running back Martin Mangram keeps an eye on would be tackler Toddrick Jackson, left, as he breaks through the Worth County defense for a big gain during the Wolves' second-round playoff win Nov. 20 at Tom Riden Stadium.

Class AAAA State Championhip Game

Buford vs. Cartersville

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Tickets: $20, per GHSA

Tomorrow is a new day, but at least one thing will be the same because it’s been a constant - Buford football is playing for a state championship.

The Wolves (13-1) aren’t playing for their first title by any means. They’re not even playing for two consecutive championships.

Buford is seeking its fourth straight state title, the ninth time under 11-year head coach Jess Simpson. It’ll be the 11th state championship in the last 15 years.

Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

At this point, playing in the Dome is old hat for the Wolves, but it’s still something you don’t get used to.

“Every year is a different experience,” said running back Christian Turner. “Last year, seeing the seniors, they got excited for it and it was new to me. This year, I saw the same thing.”

For those seniors, a win over the unbeaten Cartersville (14-0) Purple Hurricanes would mean they’ve picked up a state championship ring every season they’ve been a part of the high school program.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this family, this tradition here at Buford,” said wide receiver Brandon Marsh. “Going for four in a row seems crazy. It’s like a dream. We really need to bring this one home.”

Buford will have to contend with a passing attack they haven’t seen since Week 3 against McEachern, a game Buford lost 37-14.

The Wolves’ pass defense was also tested last week against Woodward Academy in the Class AAAA semifinals.
Woodward was leading 18-7 with just more than a minute remaining in the first half until a long drive for Buford was capped by a touchdown run by quarterback Mic Roof.

Woodward quarterback Ryan Glover was able to throw for 177 yards and a touchdown against the stingy Buford defense.
Tomorrow, the Wolves will face a highly touted sophomore quarterback who, according to Yahoo! Sports, has 14 college offers including Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss.

Trevor Lawrence has completed 222-of-341 pass attempts with just four interceptions in 14 games. He’s amassed 3,522 yards and 42 touchdowns through the air.

Along with a great signal caller, the Purple Hurricanes have great pass catchers.

Senior tight end Miller Forristall, who is committed to Alabama, has caught 54 passes for 881 yards and 10 scores.

Wide receiver Terrius Callahan has 62 catches for 1,187 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Antoine Jefferson, a junior receiver, has over 500 yards receiving.

“They pass the ball really well, and they pass it a bunch,” said Marsh, who also plays corner for Buford. “They have a really good wide receiver and tight end. We’re going to try to shut them down.”

Marsh said he is appreciative of having seen McEachern and Woodward this season and showing the Wolves “all of our flaws in the secondary.”

The Wolves, according to the senior, have fixed the holes in the secondary, and he knows that seeing those two offenses will help them against Cartersville.

“It kind of got our feet wet,” Marsh said. “Everybody saw it. (Woodward was) really successful in the first half. We came back here and fixed it up and have been able to prepare even better for Cartersville. I haven’t felt this confident in a while.”

Aside from Lawrence slinging the ball all over the field, the Wolves will have to contend with a strong running game. The Purple Hurricanes have a senior running back, Tiamon Pennymon, with 100 carries, 681 yards and 20 scores.

Fellow running back Trey Creamer, a junior, has 57 carries for 436 yards and eight touchdowns.

Lawrence himself has covered 233 yards on the ground and crossed the goal line four times.

“They’re very talented,” Marsh said. “There’s a reason they’re where they are right now.”

On the other side of the ball, Cartersville has been equally impressive.

The Purple Hurricanes have allowed just eight more points (108) than Buford this season, even posting three shutouts.

The Wolves are averaging 45.1 points per contest through the semifinal round behind 373.5 yards of total offense per game.

On the year, Buford has scored 90 total touchdowns (67 rushing, 18 passing, 2 defensive, 3 special teams) and held its opponents to just 14.

Marsh said the offense is going to stay the same it has all season.

“As we’ve been doing all year, we’re going to pound the run game and try to run it down their throats,” he said.

The Wolves have a pleathora of running backs to spread the ball around.

Martin Mangram is leading the squad with 770 yards on 106 carries for 25 scores.

Turner ranks second on the list with 751 yards and 10 touchdowns on 76 carries.

Anthony Grant is also above the 700 yard mark with 741 on 99 carries and nine scores.

“I haven’t really looked at their defensive line, but if they stop the run game, we’ll pull out our third and long pass plays,” Marsh said. “Those have been really successful all year. Nobody has been able to stop our passing game. Mic has really met all of the expectations we’ve held him to this year.”

Roof has completed 69 percent (99-of-144) of his pass attempts this season for 1,404 yards and 15 touchdowns.

While Turner is playing this game as a sophomore and taking in as much as he can from running backs ahead of him, Marsh is taking in his final game of his high school career.

“I never thought this time would come this fast,” Marsh said. “I can remember two years ago playing Washington County in the state championship and being on the sideline thinking that’s going to be me one day. Now, it’s one game away from me probably never playing football again. It seems crazy.”

His advice to younger players still up and coming through this perinnial power football program is often repeated to high schoolers - savor it.

“Just no matter what happens, be happy,” he said. “Get crunk on the practice field and never take any moment of Buford football for granted. It’s something special, and you’ll never get it back.”

Class AAAA State Championhip Game

Buford vs. Cartersville

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Tickets: $20, per GHSA

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