BUFORD — It was a game Buford coach Jess Simpson called “necessary.”
While the scoreboard indicated that Class AA No. 1 Buford had beaten No. 6 Lovett, 35-7, at Tom Riden Stadium on Friday, the win was anything but easy for the Wolves.
“This is great for us,” Simpson said. “The coaches talked about it all week, you know. We need a night like this. Things, a lot of times for this group, come easy. And to have a night where it didn’t happen easy is probably what we needed.”
Despite the typically large margin of victory, Buford was called for 20 penalties totaling 169 yards.
The Wolves’ (6-0, 0-0 6A-AA) rhythm was clearly shaken in the first half as they scored only seven points on a 27-yard touchdown run by running back Darrian Smith.
With the help of its stifling defense, however, Buford was able to take that 7-0 lead into halftime.
“I don’t think we gave up a first down until the end of the first half,” Simpson said. “I was just tickled to death at the way our defense was playing. They did a great job keeping the ball in front of them.”
Buford allowed minus-3 yards in the half.
While the second half was still riddled with penalties, the Wolves finally got their large stable of running backs moving the ball.
It began early in the third quarter with running back Andre Johnson. On Buford’s first drive of the half, Johnson ran it three times, eating up 55 yards on the ground, and finished with a 12-yard touchdown run.
The bulk of his yards came on the second play of the drive, a 33-yard run, breaking multiple tackles and trucking all the way to the 12.
“We went into the locker room and fixed a few problems on offense and it really paid off,” Johnson said.
On the Wolves’ next drive, it looked as if penalties were going to keep the team out of the end zone again.
A strong run by fullback Nathan Staub to start the drive was called back when a teammate was penalized for illegally aiding the runner. When a 16-yard run by running back C.J. Moore was called back because of a hold on the next play, the already restless crowd began to get angry.
Just two plays later, however, it was Johnson, again, who saved the situation, cutting around the edge and running 58 yards to the end zone to give Buford a 21-7 lead.
“Wow, he had a great second half, didn’t he?” Simpson said. “Man, he ran so hard. But give a lot of credit to those blockers. Watching those guys run down the field and block for him, the effort those guys were giving was just amazing.”
Johnson was equally appreciative of the help blockers gave him.
“Those guys were great,” he said. “They’re awesome. They put in so much work for this team. More than any of the rest of us.”
Johnson finished with 155 yards to go with his two touchdowns.
The Wolves were also helped late by seldom used Dontravious Wilson, a running back pulled up from the junior varsity team. Wilson added an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the win and finished with 80 yards on the ground.
Fullback Staub also scored a 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
While Lovett (3-1, 0-0 6B-AA) was shut out in the first half, it moved the ball well into Buford territory on its final drive in the second quarter.
Lions freshman quarterback Willie Candler completed four quick passes, including a 24-yard screen pass to wide receiver Mason Marsteller, but Buford held tight.
On the final play of the half, Wolves defensive end Kurt Freitag sacked the quarterback. With no timeouts left, the Lions were forced to go into the half down seven.
Lovett got its points on a 28-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Candler was flushed from the pocket and found daylight, running 28 yards for the score.
Lovett coach Mike Muschamp joked about how he scored after the game.
“Fear is a great motivator,” he said with a smile.
Muschamp praised the Buford team after the game.
“You know, I thought we did some good things in the first half,” he said. “We had a good drive there and our defense held them down pretty well. But when you’re playing against athletes like they’ve got, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.
“It’s so hard to prepare for a team like that, because you can’t recreate their size and athleticism.”
Buford will host Decatur in its subregion opener next Friday. Lovett will also open subregion play on the road against Maynard Jackson.