COLUMBUS — No. 2 Carver's Isaiah Crowell rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown and the Carver defense cracked down on No. 1 Buford on Friday as the new kid in Class AA knocked off its reigning king with a 14-0 victory at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium.
Before Friday's game, three-time defending Class AA state champion Buford had lost only one game in the previous three years. Carver, dropping down a classification this season, was a top 10 team in Class AAA last season and last won a state championship in 2007.
An early Carver (2-0) touchdown by Marqui Hawkins sent the Tigers to halftime ahead 6-0, and Crowell rebounded from a slow first half to rush for 155 second-half yards, including a 90-yard third-quarter touchdown.
"We just kept feeding Isaiah the ball and he finally broke one," Carver coach Dell McGee said. "That's what you've got to do with great backs. Keep getting them the football and good things will happen."
While Crowell was held to 35 yards in the first half, including 16 on a play that ended in a fumble, it wasn't for lack of trying. Buford (1-1) controlled possession in the first two quarters, taking up nearly eight minutes with its opening drive.
"We only had the ball, realistically, three possessions in the first half," McGee said. "They really controlled the clock in the first half and we didn't have enough touches." But it was Hawkins being in the right place at the right time on Carver's first drive that made the difference for Carver going into halftime.
Carver quarterback Kris Carson threw a pass to Dequindre Adams, and while the pass was tipped away from its mark, it fell right into the hands of Hawkins, who ran it along the Carver sideline for a 50-yard touchdown.
The point-after attempt was pushed back 5 yards by a penalty and failed, but Carver managed to hold on to the lead heading into halftime.
It was in the second half that Crowell began to find his footing with runs of 10, 31 and 90 yards on 11 carries between the third and fourth quarters.
"After that fumble, I thought, ‘it's time now, let's get it,'" Crowell said.
"I had to show everybody what I could do, that I wasn't lying about it when I said I'd make up for (the fumble)."
Carver punted away its first two possessions of the second half and was set up for another uphill battle with Buford's defense when it had a first-and-14 at its own 10 when Crowell went for his 90-yard score. He ran through the middle and squirted by Wolves defenders to find open room, taking the ball down the Carver sideline and into the end zone, just yards from where coaches Mark Richt of Georgia and Gene Chizik of Auburn had been standing much of the game.
Carson's two-point conversion pass to Adams made it 14-0 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter.
Carver's defense held the Wolves to 103 yards rushing, including a team-best 53 on 13 carries by Dominque Swope, and quarterback Alex Ross finished 12-for-24 passing for 171 yards with an interception. Carver's defense forced Buford to turn over its final two possessions on downs, including one inside the Carver 5.
"Defense played well," McGee said. "They bent but didn't break."
While the Carver defense was not willing to cut Buford much of a break, the Wolves did not do themselves many favors, either. The Wolves were called for penalties 13 times for 90 yards.
"There's an old saying that before you can win you've got to keep from beating yourself," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "Tonight we had our chances. I don't care if it was the first or fourth quarter, all night long it wasn't our night. We couldn't capitalize, and we hurt ourselves with some foolish mistakes, and that was part of it."
Still, Simpson said there were "a million" positives his team takes from the game.
"We've got a whole lot of growing up to do," Simpson said. "I've got a young football team and the reason you play this game is to grow up over the course of the season."
Buford (1-1) next plays Westminster on Friday.