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Football Player of the Week: Chestatee's Blake Buffington
War Eagle senior recorded rushing TD, kickoff return TD, 3 interceptions
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Chestatee defensive back Blake Buffington leaves Lumpkin County special teams players behind on a kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half Friday night at Chestatee. - photo by Nat Gurley | The Times

Honor roll

Xavier Gantt, Buford: Rushed for two touchdowns in a win against Fannin County.

Martin Mangram, Buford: Rushed for two touchdowns against Fannin County.

Wyatt Burgess, Chestatee: Rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in a win against Lumpkin County.

Tray Bryant, Chestatee: Rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns against Lumpkin County.

Cole Chancey, Commerce: Rushed for 132 yards against Athens Christian.

Devin Watson, East Hall: Passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 79 yards in a win against Banks County.

Jeremiah Goss, Flowery Branch: Rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns in a win against Clarke Central.

Jackson McDonald, Flowery Branch: Passed for 195 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 50 yards against Clarke Central.

Jacob Lewis, Jackson County: Passed for 331 yards and six touchdowns against Oconee County.

Xavier Harper, Jackson County: Caught 10 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for a touchdown against Oconee County.

Layson Giles, Jackson County: Caught seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown against Oconee County.

Isaiah Blake, Jefferson: Rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns in a win against Social Circle.

Luis Hernandez, Johnson: Rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown against Pickens.

Jackson Strickland, Lakeview Academy: Rushed for 277 yards and four touchdowns against North Cobb Christian.

Andrew Smith, North Hall: Rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns in a win against West Hall.

Collin Pettell, Riverside Military: Passed for 340 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for a touchdown in a win against Glascock County.

J.J. McCalston, Riverside Military: Caught two touchdown passes against Glascock County.

Avery Cagle, Riverside Military: Caught two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown against Glascock County.

Sage Jordan, Riverside Military: Rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns against Glascock County.

Hunter Atkinson, West Hall: Caught four passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns against North Hall.

Blake Buffington’s versatility served him well last Friday against Lumpkin County.

The Chestatee senior rarely came out of the game, starting at running back, free safety and kick return specialist. He made every position count with a rushing touchdown, 76-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and three interceptions, leading the War Eagles to a 42-14 win over the Indians.

For his efforts, Buffington is The Times’ Football Player of the Week.

“That game, for me, is definitely the biggest one I’ve ever been part of,” Buffington said. “I felt really good coming into it, and I felt like we were going to come out on top.”

Buffington’s big plays couldn’t have been timelier.

His rushing touchdown, a 14-yard carry with a minute left in the first quarter, erased a 6-0 deficit after Chestatee struggled through a poor opening period.

“Our offensive line opened up, and just hit it as hard as I could,” Buffington said. “I looked up, and nobody was there.”

Buffington’s first two interceptions of the game set up a pair of War Eagle scoring drives. They took a 21-6 lead late in the first half, before Lumpkin County got back within seven after a 73-yard pass play and successful 2-point conversion.

Buffington responded accordingly on the ensuing kick return, lining up behind a key block from teammate Cody Humphries and finding open space to sprint to the end zone.

The return gave the War Eagles a 28-14 halftime lead. They never looked back, cruising to their seventh straight win.

“I just saw one crease and hit it as hard as I could,” Buffington said. “Then I just followed Cody Humphries to the end zone.”

Buffington struck again in the fourth quarter with his final pick, just as Lumpkin County entered Chestatee territory. The War Eagles gave up a fumble on the next play, but got it back one play later with six points on the side after Zach Boerger intercepted a pass and took it 90 yards for Chestatee’s final touchdown.

Just another successful night for a team that Buffington says has mastered the ability to work together as a unit, despite his dazzling individual numbers.

“We have a good offensive line that’s good at opening holes up for the running backs,” he said. “And our defensive line is just unbelievable. They’re a big part of what I did.”

Through eight games this season, Buffington has 287 yards on 84 carries, 33 tackles and a team-high four interceptions. He averages 31 yards per kick return.

“He’s very versatile,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “He’s not real big, but he’s been a great-effort kid since the day that I met him. He’s very coachable and he’s always done what I’ve asked him to do.”

At 5-foot-5 and 140 pounds, Luttrell was originally concerned about dealing such a physical workload to a player of his stature.

Those worries are a thing of the distant past.

“He, as well as some other guys in this senior class, have really committed to the weight room and committed to our program,” Luttrell said. “Because of their efforts, they’re able to play on Friday nights. And play at a high level and do a great job.”

Buffington has been a key contributor in patching up Chestatee’s running game after it lost preseason starter A.J. Sijiye due to a torn ACL shortly before the season began. It left him and fellow seniors Zac Cheshire and Tray Bryant left to handle the workload, alongside mobile quarterback Wyatt Burgess.

The War Eagles are averaging 267.8 rushing yards per game, and Buffington continues to be a important element to their ground attack.

“I just knew we had to step up and take that role over,” he said. “The offense is doing pretty good — the line is opening up holes and Wyatt Burgess is doing a good job distributing the ball.”