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Business as usual at Buford
Quest for fourth straight state title begins Friday against Hart County
Buford coach Jess Simpson works with the team’s linemen during the Wolves Tuesday afternoon practice.

BUFORD — Everything surrounding Buford High’s football program this time of the year is upbeat.

From the music coming through loud and clear at the Region 6-AA champion Wolves’ practice field, to the extra pep in the players steps going through drills, they know the second season is about to begin.

Even though it was unseasonably warm Tuesday afternoon, November only means one thing at Buford: it’s playoff time.

This year, Buford (9-1) has a chance to become the first to four-peat as state champions since West Rome (1982-1985) and only the second in state history.

“The tradition at Buford is unlike any other,” senior quarterback Alex Ross said. “This is a really exciting atmosphere and so much fun to be a part of.”

The music over the speakers at Buford is served as a way to keep players from getting distracted by noise they’ll hear during the game. While going through drills, players hear artists ranging from Usher to The Who. Even when a techno beat comes on, some players throw in a fist pump running from station to station.

However, none of Buford’s football players let the lively atmosphere take away from the serious work that needs to be done in preparation for Friday’s Class AA playoff opener against No. 4 seed Hart County (6-3-1) at Tom Riden Stadium.

Buford coach Jess Simpson is quick to point out that the Bulldogs are a serious threat with all three of their losses coming to playoff qualifiers (Stephens County, North Oconee and Elbert County) and none by more than six points.

“Hart County has been a Class AAA contender for years and they dropped down to Class AA and still are just as good,” Simpson said. “The end of the regular season, they were beating everyone mercilessly.

“They are big, fast and definitely pass the eyeball test.”

Hart County has its own football tradition with this marking its 19th consecutive trip to the playoffs. The Bulldogs have lost in the first round each of the past two seasons, including a 2008 playoff loss at North Hall.

Hart County coach Joby Scroggs says his program is excited about the opportunity to play Buford right off the bat in the playoffs.

“We look at this as a chance to play a great football team with great tradition,” Scroggs said. “Like they say, to be the best you have to beat the best.”

Even though the Wolves are gunning for the school’s fourth straight title, Simpson doesn’t want his team thinking about playing in the Georgia Dome quite yet. He knows winning another state title is a five-step (or five-week) process and every opponent is potentially capable of knocking off the Wolves.

Simpson is a very straight forward coach and wants his players to take the playoff process one week at a time.

“We know that on Friday night at 7:30, there will be 32 teams in the running for the state title,” Simpson said. “And at 10:30 that night there will only be 16.”

Still, Buford’s seniors want to enjoy their final weeks of high school football and the process it took to get to this stage. The Wolves won the region championship against Westminster last week, the second meeting between those school’s this year, along with regular season games against Class AA’s top-ranked Carver-Columbus (10-0) and Region 8-AAA champion Gainesville (9-1).

That’s a tough schedule by any standard.

Players say that kind of grind serves them well in trying to set up another trip to the state title game. They also would like another crack at Carver-Columbus, the only school to beat the Wolves this season.

“We’re looking at it like we have to be confident, but not cocky,” senior running back Eric Barr said. “We know there are areas that we’d like to improve on.”

And what does it feel like to think about leaving with a state title each year in high school?

“Oh, it’s great thinking about a four-peat,” Barr said. “We want a chance to face Carver again.”

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