The Buford High Wolves opened Region 8-5A play in convincing fashion Friday night, defeating Clarke Central, 45-7, in Buford. It was only their second game played in the month of September.
The unexpected split in playing time was a result of two bye weeks and Buford’s Sept. 8 contest with Broward International (Fla.) being canceled due to Hurricane Irma.
Those circumstances never threw returning Class 5A runner-up Buford for a loop. The Wolves (3-1, 1-0 Region 8-5A) showcased a balanced attack under the lights of Tom Riden Stadium while overwhelming the Gladiators (4-2, 1-1) on defense. In that process, they never trailed.
Buford first-year coach John Ford wasn’t surprised, and hopes that intensity will continue as they venture deeper into their region slate.
“They did a really good job tonight,” Ford said. “You wouldn’t think that was, you know, a group that hadn’t played much by the way they prepared. They came prepared and had a good attitude, good energy and tempo.”
The Wolves accrued 307 total yards, including 148 on the ground that was spread among seven ball carriers. Junior Derrian Brown led the Wolves backfield with 56 yards on nine carries and was one of four players to score in the first half.
Wolves freshman quarterback Aaron McLaughlin ran for a score and threw for 151 yards on 12-of-22 attempts and one interception.
The Gladiators could hardly get much going in response. They turned it over twice on downs, and senior quarterback Jack Mangel (8 of 19, 115 yards passing) was under duress for much of the night as he was sacked nine times, twice by Buford defensive end Brock Mattison.
“You can’t let that quarterback sit in the pocket,” Ford said. We were hoping to get some pressure, and both the three and four-man rushers had some impressive games.”
Senior running back Jonathan Sewell (82 rushing yards) gave Clarke Central its only score of the night on a four-yard touchdown plunge with 1:56 left to play. It came three plays after defensive back Elijah Smith picked off McLaughlin at Buford’s 11-yard-line off a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage.
The Wolves capitalized on good field position to gradually build up a 31-0 halftime lead, with their first three drives beginning on the Clarke Central 46, 41 and their own 49-yard line. The Gladiators slowed Buford’s pursuit momentarily on the game opening march, holding the Wolves to a Hayden Olsen 40-yard field goal at the 10:36 mark.
From there, the Wolves went on to score on four of their next five drives, accruing 235 yards from scrimmage, 116 rushing by their trademark backfield. Touchdowns by Tennessee pledge Anthony Grant (1 yard), McLaughlin (12 yards), Michigan commit Christian Turner (13 yards) and Brown (7 yards) put the Wolves in cruise control right before the break.
Meanwhile, the Gladiators could hardly get anything going from the start, as Mangel was tripped up deep in the backfield for a loss on their first drive in the opening quarter, and was sacked four additional times in the half. The Gladiators were held to only five first downs, and their closest chance for a score came in the form of a 45-yard field goal attempt that sailed left and short with 9:09 left in the second quarter.
A 30-yard completion from Mangel to Evan Dimaggio put the Gladiators in contention for a score with minutes left in the half. But Mangel was stuffed a yard short on fourth-and-2 for the game’s first turnover on downs.
Buford visits Johnson on Friday in Oakwood.