The No. 3 Buford High football team used its dominant run game and staunch defense to clinch a playoff spot with an overwhelming, 49-0 win against Walnut Grove High on Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium in Buford.
Even without star running back Christian Turner, the duo of Anthony Grant and Derrian Brown combined for 285 of Buford’s 313 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Aaron McLaughlin was an efficient 11 of 17 for 77 yards with an interception.
The Wolves (6-1, 4-0 region) held Walnut Grove (2-6, 1-3) to just 115 total yards and four first downs.
Buford started slowly, scoring on just two of its seven first-half possessions to lead just 14-0 at halftime. Grant bowled defenders over on touchdown runs of 51 and 18 yards, but eight penalties, three sacks allowed and two turnovers didn’t help the Wolves’ cause.
“Great defenses keep opponents out of the end zone,” Buford coach John Ford told his team after the game, “but elite defenses put points on the board.”
That’s exactly what happened to start the second half. Defensive back AJ Hendrix intercepted Walnut Grove quarterback Colby Bell and returned it 20 yards to give the Wolves a 21-0 lead.
From there, the floodgates opened as Buford added another defensive score on a fumble recovery by defensive end Jalen Anderson in the fourth quarter, sandwiched between scoring runs of 3 yards by Brown and 20 yards by Grant. Will Westmoreland threw a 33-yard strike down the middle on a slant to Jamaal Singleton to finish off the scoring.
The highlight for Walnut Grove came midway through the second quarter when running back Malik Campbell juked a couple Buford defenders at the line of scrimmage for a 50-yard run. That was the team’s first first down of the game, but the drive resulted in an interception by cornerback Mikey McMorris at the 7-yard line. The Wolves forced three turnovers.
“A pick-six and a fumble recovery in the end zone is about as good as you can ask for,” Ford said. “We haven’t been scored on in a long time, but we’ve just got to keep it going with our intensity and effort and focus and how we prepare every single day.
“We can’t start out sloppy with penalties and turnovers. You can’t come out and turn the ball over and get holding penalties and put yourself behind the sticks and things like that.”
Buford, which has outscored region opponents 322-74 with three consecutive shutouts, plays at Loganville next week.