Buford’s starting quarterback Aaron McLaughlin was unavailable for the team’s first-round playoff game against Miller Grove Friday night, but that didn’t seem to slow down the Wolves (9-2, 5-0 Region 8-5A) as backup Jarvis Evans and a dominant rushing attack carried the team to a 35-13 victory.
Buford coach John Ford did not comment on the reasoning for McLaughlin’s absence but expressed his pride and confidence in Evans following the game.
“Jarvis is a great kid,” Ford said. “He works hard. He prepares. He was ready when his number was called.”
Evans was not asked to do too much for the Wolves — going 5 for 12 on the night for 93 yards and an interception. Instead, Buford leaned on a rushing attack fronted by a trio of seniors in Derrian Brown, Elijah Turner and Jamaal Singleton.
Brown carried 16 times for 109 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, while taking his lone reception for 34 yards. Turner added 43 yards on his six totes and caught a pass for 16 more yards through the air.
Singleton touched the ball only three times, but he took advantage of his opportunities, gaining 34 yards and scoring twice in the third quarter.
“I’m kind of the Swiss Army Knife on my team,” Singleton said of his efficient performance. “Whatever they need, I’m usually right there to pick it back up and make sure we’re on the right track.”
Buford started things off quickly, scoring three touchdowns on its first four possessions, while holding Miller Grove to just one first down in the opening quarter.
But an injury to the Wolverines’ starting quarterback Phillip Russell early in the second quarter and the entrance of backup Jamaal Roach seemed to jump start Miller Grove’s stagnant offense, and the defense answered the call as the game started to slip away from the visiting team.
Roach completed a 40-yard pass on his first attempt, and Miller Grove held the ball for 10:26 over the second 12-minute frame, forcing a pair of takeaways and preventing the Wolves from building on their 21-point lead before the halftime break.
“We’ve just got to execute a little better on both sides of the ball in those times,” Ford said.
Despite dominating the time of possession in the second quarter, the Wolverines could not get on the scoreboard, failing to put up points after driving inside the 20-yard line on a pair of occasions. Buford’s lead heading into the break remained 21-0.
The Wolves turned the heat back on to start the second half, opening the third quarter with a 10-play drive that ate up nearly five minutes of the clock and ended with a 23-yard touchdown run from Singleton.
After forcing a three-and-out on Miller Grove’s first second-half possession, Buford kept the foot on the gas, grinding out the entire rest of the third quarter and getting Singleton in again, this time from 5 yards out.
“You’ve got to learn how to step on the throat at the start of the half,” Singleton said. “I feel like the more we keep focusing on it, the more we’re going to execute on it.”
The 35-point lead to open the fourth quarter was enough for the Wolves to comfortably ride out the rest of the clock. A pair of late touchdowns — produced by a 94-yard pass from Roach and a 6-yard strike on the final play of the game — were not enough to get Miller Grove back in the game, as Buford cruised to the first-round victory.
With the win, the Wolves will take on Kell in the second round of the Class 5A tournament.
“I’m really confident in the team right now,” Singleton said. “I’m really just worried about teaching the young kids, making sure they’re on top of what they need to do, but also keeping up with what I need to do on film, in meetings, practices. Everything that goes into playing games day to day, we’re all in for that.”