ATLANTA — Buford High’s senior football players can take a deep breath now. The Wolves (15-0) managed to accomplish their season-long goal to leave the program the way they found it.
That was quite an ambitious goal after rolling to the 2007 state title and sending 13 players on to the ranks of college football.
But Friday’s 45-21 win over Calhoun in the Class AA state title game only reinforced the fact that Buford’s program doesn’t rebuild, it just reloads.
“This was a very different state championship, but just as sweet,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “This year was more of a plow horse team, than show horse.”
“Winning back-to-back state titles is awesome,” Wolves senior lineman Dallas Lee said. “It makes it more fun when you have to come out and grind and work hard to earn the win.”
Buford’s Cody Getz, a senior, assured the senior class that it wouldn’t have to leave the Georgia Dome disappointed. He ran for 236 yards, four touchdowns, and also a big 27-yard run down to the 1 in the third quarter, setting up another Buford score.
“After last year, everyone doubted that we could do it again,” Getz said. “But we just had such a hard-working group on this team.
“I’m so happy for my senior class, this coaching staff and the entire team.”
Buford’s ground game is the reason it got the victory this season in the state title game. The Wolves put up 360 rushing yards (9 yards per carry).
With the win, the Wolves have back-to-back state titles for the third time in school history. Next year, Buford has a chance to win three straight state titles for the second time in school history. The Wolves won a Class A state title in 2001, followed by AA state titles in 2002 and 2003.
Simpson doesn’t want to start talking about next season quite yet. He wants time to take in the accomplishments of this year’s Wolves squad that finished with the school’s fifth state title and fifth undefeated record this decade.
“These kids were unreal,” Simpson said. “They went out there and just played their tails off.”
Lee won the state title just weeks before he enrolls at the University of Georgia. This state title with the Wolves was one of his final actions as a high school student.
“This is a great graduation present,” Lee said.
Calhoun proved to be one of Buford’s biggest challenges all season. The Yellow Jackets (12-3) showed they could stretch a defense effectively with its spread offense. Dustin Christian scored on a 59-yard run for the Yellow Jackets early in the second half to give their ground game some life.
Calhoun quarterback Michael Johnson was throwing the ball all night to keep Buford’s defense on its toes. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 242 yards. The Yellow Jackets finished the game with 391 yards on offense, which is light years ahead of the 174 yards per game Buford was allowing through the first 14 games.
Derek Ramsey (four catches, 83 yards) and DaRick Rogers (four catches, 71 yards) led all Calhoun receivers.
“We knew Calhoun was going to be tough,” Simpson said. “We saw their last four game tapes, and they looked like highlight reels.”
The Yellow Jackets also took advantage of the unplanned plays. They got out of a first-and-43 hole by drawing a passing interference. Calhoun also muffed a punt later in the same drive, only to have Blayne Beaver pick it up and run it 21 yards for a first down.
But Buford managed to prevent those big plays hurting, thanks to a Jeffrey Gazaway interception on that late third-quarter drive.
“That interception was really huge,” Simpson said. “We got the ball back, scored and made it a three-touchdown game.”
Buford junior running back Storm Johnson helped the Wolves build a little cushion with a 32-yard touchdown run with 11:21 left in the third quarter, making the score 28-14.
Jessel Curry had an 18-yard reception from senior quarterback Michael May for the Wolves, which drew a personal foul before Johnson’s touchdown run.
Curry also got in the end zone for the Wolves later in the third quarter with a run from the 1.
Simpson said Buford’s success running the ball all goes back up front with the work of the offensive line, fullback and tight end.
“Our offensive line just did a great job moving people with their big bodies,” Simpson said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of how those guys played.”
Christian finished as Calhoun’s leading rusher with 11 carries for 67 yards.