BUFORD — Beginning the playoffs in pursuit of their fifth consecutive state title, the Buford Wolves wanted to get off to a fast start.
They got their wish on just the second play from scrimmage, forcing a fumble and returning it 11 yards for a score just 19 seconds into the game. After that, it was just business as usual.
The top-ranked Wolves erupted to a 28-0 lead in the first half and finished strong to defeat visiting Temple, 49-13.
With the win, Buford (11-0) advances to the second round of the Class AA state playoffs, where it will meet Jefferson County next Friday.
Coach Jess Simpson said he was pleased with the fast start for his defense.
"I was pleased with how we started tonight," Simpson said. "We got off to a real fast start on defense with that fumble there.
"Our offense didn't get a lot of opportunities in the first half, but when they did, I think they executed well and took care of business."
Overall, the Buford defense allowed just 116 total yards, 44 on the ground, and forced two turnovers.
The second turnover came on Temple's second possession, just minutes after the first. After Temple running back Jamaine Hutchinson busted a long 60-yard run, breaking away from a host of tacklers and advancing the ball to the Buford 15-yard line, the Wolves' defense stepped up, It forced two negative plays and then a fumble to keep the Tigers (6-5) out of the end zone.
In the game, Temple's offense ran 48 plays, gaining yardage on just 15.
"We pressured a bunch and worked on some of our different packages," he said. "Sometimes, that opens running lanes, but for the most part I thought we played fast. We were really physical, and I thought our guys were really focused."
On offense, Buford got a strong effort out of quarterback Sam Clay, who finished 9-of-11 passing for 136 yards and two touchdown passes. He added a 53-yard touchdown run on the ground.
Already leading 14-0 after Clay connected with tight end Kurt Freitag for a 5-yard score, Buford gained possession of the ball with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
On the second play of the drive, Clay followed his fullback and found a hole, breaking loose for 53 yards and a score.
"I was just supposed to follow tight behind the fullback, find the seam and cut through it," Clay said. "As soon as I saw the hole, I just tried to run as fast as I could to the end zone. I wasn't thinking, I was just running."
Simpson was very impressed with Clay's play.
"Man, he was really good tonight," he said after the game. "Running it, throwing it. He was sharp."
Clay added another 5-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Staub in the second quarter to put the Wolves up 28-0 before Temple was finally able to score.
On its next drive, Temple put together a 10-play drive that ended in a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Miles Simmons to wide receiver Deijon Tyler. Simmons added another touchdown to Tyler with just over a minute left in the game. He finished 5-of-13 passing for 72 yards to go with the two scores. Tyler had three catches for 43 yards.
Buford capped its first half with a 12-yard touchdown run by running back Andre Johnson with just over a minute left before pulling its starters early in the third quarter.
Now, the Wolves shift their focus to next week.
"I think there were a couple of things that we could have done better tonight," Simpson said, "but, luckily, these are things we can correct this week. This is where things really start to get tough."