The No. 3 Buford High football team dominated in the trenches, defeating fourth-seeded Paulding County 54-23 to claim the school’s 19th consecutive first-round playoff win Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium in Buford.
Leading just 19-3 at the half, the Wolves (9-1) scored on their first five second-half possessions to put the game away. After completing only 5 of 15 passes for 29 yards in the first half, Buford freshman quarterback Aaron McLaughlin connected on 6 of 7 in the third quarter for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
He found Tyler Gillis on a 3-yard scoring fade to start the second half, and the second touchdown was a 60-yard inside screen that Isaiah Isaac took to the house for a 47-16 lead late in the third. The Wolves’ rediscovered passing game complemented a dominating run game that accounted for 355 yards and five touchdowns on 52 carries.
“We didn’t make too many adjustments at halftime,” Buford coach John Ford said. “We just did a good job of coaching them, and the kids did a good job in the second half.”
The Wolves relied on big plays to score in the first half.
Derrian Brown (157 yards and three scores on seven carries) had touchdown runs of 35 and 74 yards. Tennessee commit Anthony Grant (83 yards on 11 carries) scored on a 3-yard plunge to cap off a drive that went 54 yards on nine plays. Christian Turner, a Michigan pledge, rounded out Buford’s three-headed rushing attack with 70 yards on nine carries.
Paulding County (5-6), meanwhile, couldn’t run on the Wolves’ stout defensive front, managing minus-3 yards on eight first-half carries.
After allowing just two touchdowns in its last six games, Buford’s defense gave up touchdown passes of 46, 61 and 23 yards by Paulding County’s Brantley Mauldin (19 for 37, 275 yards).
“We’re going to see a lot of teams with good quarterbacks, and coach Spence has had a lot of good offenses and knows what it’s supposed to look like,” Ford said.