TD Roof still remembers getting off the bus at the Georgia Dome four years ago, just before Buford captured a state championship against Washington County.
He’ll do the same thing Friday, with a similar result in mind.
The second-ranked Wolves will take on No. 5 Rome for the Class AAAAA state championship at 4:30 p.m. in Atlanta, the final act of Roof’s high school career. The linebacker/fullback has been a catalyst behind Buford’s run to the title game, most notably in last weekend’s 28-16 semifinal win against Kell.
Roof, the team’s leading tackler, made huge contributions in all three phases of the game. He turned a critical fourth-and-1 into a 59-yard touchdown with six minutes left in the contest, putting the Wolves ahead 21-10.
“(The defense was) crashing down hard, and I bounced to the outside,” Roof said Monday. “I just somehow made a couple moves and made a play.”
But the No. 6 Longhorns responded with their longest drive of the night, punching it into the end zone before attempting a two-point conversion that would have resulted in a three-point game. Roof forced a fumble on the attempt and recovered the ensuing onside kick to set up Christian Turner’s game-sealing touchdown run.
It was an all-around performance for Roof, who described his final night in Tom Riden Stadium as a “surreal one.”
“I wanted to leave everything I had out on the field and really play the best I could for the last time I’m ever going to play in that stadium,” he said. “I thanked (my teammates) for the opportunity to make a play and thanked everybody for making it a special moment.”
Though Roof was there to make big play after big play in the state semifinal, he could only watch from the sideline as Buford fought to secure the Region 8-AAAAA title earlier this season.
The hard-hitting linebacker said a tweaked knee caused him to miss the Wolves’ final two regular-season games and their playoff opener against North Springs. But Buford still thrashed then-top-10 Loganville in the de facto region championship game Oct. 28, even without the heart and soul of its defense.
“It was really hard, missing those two games,” Roof said. “Those were probably two of the biggest games, considering Loganville was the region championship and Flowery Branch is just a couple miles up the road. I wanted to be out there really badly. It was just smarter for my team and me to sit those out and heal, and then come back.”
Roof said he’s back to full health, and that was evident in his huge outing against Kell.
Now the Wolves are headed to the state title game, a fitting end to Roof’s high school career. His playing days won’t be over, though — he plans to move on to Georgia Tech to play for his father Ted, the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Roof, who’s ranked as a 3-star prospect and the No. 51 inside linebacker in the country by 247Sports’ composite ratings, said his father “stayed out (the recruitment) as much as he could.” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and quarterbacks coach Andy McCollum handled his recruitment instead.
Despite the tricky situation, Roof said he and his father had no problem balancing business and family.
“He’s a dad first,” Roof said. “Regardless of where I went, he wanted me to take the best spot for me. It just happened to work out.”
But he has at least one more trip to Atlanta before he suits up for the Yellow Jackets. Buford, winners of 13 straight games after dropping its season opener at Class AAAAAAA Roswell, will seek its 12th state championship Friday.
The Wolves fell short of that goal last season, losing to Cartersville 10-0 in the Class AAAA state title game.
But the year since then has flown by, Roof said, just like all four he has spent at Buford.
“It’s weird to see how fast it has come up on me,” Roof said of his high school career drawing to an end. “You turn around and just three years ago we were getting on the bus to go down to the dome my freshman year.
“It sneaks up on you, but I love Buford. I wouldn’t wish it to end without any of the other guys and seniors on the team. That whole group, I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else.”