BUFORD — In a way, the preseason is over for the Buford High football team. The Wolves are unbeaten at the end of the regular season for the fourth straight year and own their seventh straight region championship.
So you might imagine Buford’s 34-6 victory Friday night over Greater Atlanta Christian would be cause for a fair bit of celebration. Not so fast. The goal of winning a second straight Class AA championship is still out there.
"Everyone is 0-0 now," said senior tailback Cody Getz, who ran for 138 yards and a touchdown. "Region championships are OK. But the road back to (a state title) is the big one right now."
Sure, there was much to talk about after the Wolves (10-0, 7-0 Region 6-AA) extended their regular-season winning streak to 47 games. In addition to Getz’s night, Storm Johnson had two scores, and Ja’kar Bridges returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown.
The Wolves scored three times in the span of 1:35 during the fourth quarter to turn a one-possession game into somewhat of a blowout.
It would be easy to look at the scoreboard and think Buford cruised. It didn’t.
Greater Atlanta Christian dominated the first half everywhere except on the scoreboard. The Spartans outgained the Wolves 160-38 and had the football more than 11 minutes longer than Buford. The two categories the Wolves had in their favor were critical: turnovers (2-0) and penalties (6-1).
Buford benefitted on a botched field goal attempt early in the second quarter, and Landon Anderson recovered a muffed punt return at midfield with two minutes left in the half.
And if weren’t for Bridges’ touchdown, Buford would have been scoreless in the first half for the first time this year.
"It was a big play," the senior cornerback said. "I read a hand signal from the quarterback and knew what would be coming. We knew we needed that one and that we had the game."
Someone must have flipped a light switch in the second half. Once the rains that soaked the stadium subsided in the second half, the Wolves looked like, well, the Wolves.
Buford outgained the Spartans 210-107 during the final two quarters. Johnson capped a quick three-play drive with a 31-yard touchdown run by running over two defenders just 1:16 into the third quarter.
Stephen Atwater brought GAC to within 14-6 with a 2-yard run midway through the fourth quarter before Getz, Jessel Curry and Johnson all found the end zone in the final 5:28. Curry’s score came one play after Daunte Carr’s 60-yard interception return on the Spartans’ first play following Getz’s long touchdown run.
"That was an interesting game," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "There was the downpour early, and we did just enough to get the lead and keep it. Offensively, in the second half we did a better job of figuring out where their schemes were. Plus we did a better job of blocking. We believe in playing a brand of ball that will wear on your late. I think that’s what happened here."
And it never hurts to have momentum going into the postseason. After all, that’s what Buford players have been working toward since January.
"Everything is gone now," Bridges said. "It starts all over for us, and we want to prove ourselves again."