Even after Buford’s 45-7 trouncing of North Springs to open the Class AAAAA playoffs on Friday night, Coach Jess Simpson didn’t care to pay attention to the numbers. He never has, and he never will.
One number however continues to grow in regards to the Wolves’ postseason prowess. Their dominant performance at Tom Riden Stadium was the program’s 18th consecutive first-round win, a streak dating back to 1998. The Wolves will stay on home soil to host Jones County in the second round next Friday night.
Even with an awareness of yet another deep postseason run for the near future, Simpson doesn’t want his team taking anything for granted.
“It is so delicate and so fragile,” Simpson said on keeping their composure. “The difference in winning and losing is so small, and you can’t take anything for granted and you can’t look too far down the road. You gotta stay in the moment, keep your kids and team focused. I think we got the kind of seniors that can do that.”
Yes, the margin of victory in the playoffs can be small. Luckily for the Wolves (10-1), that wasn’t the case. The hosts tallied their 10th straight win with no sign of rust. In their first meeting since 1983, the Wolves out gained the Spartans 333-142 for the contest while recording six takeaways — five interceptions and one fumble recovery — on defense.
“I thought we had a great week of preparation,” Simpson said. “Really excited about how we’re practicing and our team is really improved. Getting the turnovers is big tonight. Any time you do that, you got a good chance of winning.”
Running back Anthony Grant found the end zone twice on back-to-back drives during a 28-point first quarter, his first from 15 yards to put the Wolves on the board less two minutes into the game. They went on to outscore the Spartans 38-7 for the half, the defense aiding that surge with interceptions from Joshua Blackwell, Kellen Neal, Bryson Richardson and Mikey McMorris, respectively.
“I thought we came out really locked in, and I thought we executed,” said quarterback Mic Roof (6-of-8 passing), who threw for 108 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the first half.
Roof accounted for Buford’s sixth score with three minutes left in the half, bouncing outside the pocket on third-and-15 and throwing on the run to Jake Simpson, who hauled in the long pass along the home sideline and stumbled across the plain from 28 yards out.
Grant finished with a team-high 165 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, his longest a 74-yard scamper up the middle and into the end zone untouched for the Wolves’ final score at the 1:47 mark in the third quarter.
Spartans running back Justin Ruiz came in averaging 5.9 yards per carry, but was held to 1.9 yards per carry and 29 yards for the game. He gave the Spartans their only score on a 2-yard plunge with 1:11 left in the half.