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Junior defensive ends anchor Buford's defense
Buford High’s Kurt Freitag takes his helmet off for a moment during the Wolves’ wet Monday afternoon practice session.

Buford vs. Lovett

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Tom Riden Stadium

Tickets: $10

Buford High junior Rick Legrant is tired of the comparisons.

After backing up defensive lineman A.J. Cunningham last year, Legrant thought he’d rid himself of Cunningham once the senior graduated and handed the starting role over to him.

He was wrong.

“Everybody is always saying I look like a little A.J.,” Legrant said Monday. “It’s not A.J., it’s me Rick.”

The 6-foot, 202-pound Legrant is certainly making a name for himself this year, as he has already tied Cunningham’s 2009 season totals of 15 tackles for a loss and seven sacks through 13 games.

“I tried to live up to the expectations,” Legrant said. “But then I realized I wanted to be better than him.”

Legrant is one half of the dominating defensive end duo of the Wolves (12-1), who also have junior Kurt Freitag on the other side of the line pressuring the quarterback. Freitag, who also plays tight end and is a mainstay on special teams, is second to Legrant with six sacks.

“We usually try and protect the run, but whenever we get a chance to get the quarterback, we try and take advantage,” Freitag said.

One added advantage Freitag has is the familiarity with who’s blocking him.

“When I play offense, I’m the tight end and I’m usually blocking a defensive end, and when I’m on defense I’m usually matched up against a tight end,” he said. “That makes both positions a lot easier.”

Legrant’s presence on the opposite side of the line also helps.

“When they’re playing with great pad level, they’re hard to block,” Wolves coach Jess Simpson said. “Both are hard-nosed kids who are not afraid to mix it up, and when they’re playing well, they bring great fundamentals.”

Coincidentally, that’s the main thing Legrant learned from playing behind Cunningham last year.

“If I learned anything from him, it was to not give up and always give that second, third and fourth effort,” he said. “But really, I’m just going out there and doing my best.”

Both players are also part of the reason the Wolves are holding opponents to less than 200 yards a game and are two wins away from their fourth straight Class AA state title. But like all great players, they know they can’t do it alone.

“I don’t really call it a defense, I call it a group of assassins,” Legrant said. “We hit to hurt.

“As a unit, we’re together,” he added. “We don’t really call us a unit, we consider it a family.”

If the defense is a family, then his brother, Freitag, is doing everything in his power to help them achieve the ultimate goal.

Simpson said Freitag rarely comes out of the game, never asks to come out, and “for the most part, is playing at a high level.”

Freitag doesn’t know where that mentality comes from, but he knows it’s here to stay.

“I get tired, but I gotta push through it and work through it,” said the 6-5, 235-pound junior. “Just because you’re tired is not something that’s worth coming out for.

“It’s become a part of me,” he added. “That’s what we do here.”

The same could be said about winning state championships. Buford’s next step toward that is a game against Lovett on Friday at Tom Riden Stadium.

“Lovett is kind of a rivalry,” Freitag said of the team the Wolves will be playing for the fourth time in two years. “I definitely think they’re going to try and give us some different looks and schemes. We overpowered them last time, so I think they might try and fool us on the mental side.”

One thing the Lions won’t do is talk trash before the game like Buford’s last opponent Cook did. The players have said that all is quiet between the two teams and there haven’t been any back-and-forth Facebook messages.

“They’re not known for talking until they get out on the field,” Legrant said.

Freitag kind of wishes that wasn’t the case.

“I would love it if they did talk trash,” he said. “But I don’t think they’d come out and talk trash like Cook because you saw how that worked out.”

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