A mid-July golf game between Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin and Buford coach Jess Simpson eventually led to the Buford High football team accepting an invitation to open the 2016 season in Dublin, Ireland.
The Wolves will begin their regular season slate on September 2 as a lead-up to the Aer Lingus College Football Classic between Georgia Tech and Boston College the following day.
“I knew of Marist and Blessed Trinity and invited them,” said Patrick Steenberge, owner and operator of Global Football. “While I was there, the Blessed Trinity coach took a call and said ‘Hey, you better take a look at Buford. They’re a great program, they’ve got a really good coach and everything.’ So I kind of took his personal invitation.
“I guess (McFarlin) had just spoken with Coach Simpson. They were playing golf together and (McFarlin) said (to Simpson) ‘Hey, you might want to be interested in this.’”
Global Football is the organization in charge of putting together the Aer Lingus College Football Classic.
So far, six high school teams have committed to play in Dublin. Along with the three Georgia schools (Buford, Blessed Trinity, Marist), Belen Jesuit out of Miami (Fla.), St. Peters Prep out of Jersey City (N.J.) and Prepa Tec out of Mexico City (Mexico) will also be making the trip.
“Buford High School, our community, and our football program are excited to be a part of the 2016 Ireland event,” Simpson said in a release. “This is an incredible opportunity for our players; a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play the sport they love on an international stage. We pride ourselves on a tradition of excellence in our program and look forward to this as another key chapter in the storied history of Buford football.”
According to Steenberge, Dublin has the facilities to house 12 teams, so more high schools teams may be announced in the future. Steenberge said two other unnamed schools have already reached out to him, and he expects more to follow.
Taking a team full of 100 high school kids and their coaches across the Atlantic is no small feat. Steenberge estimates the cost of the trip at around $2,900 a person. Global Football gives the schools back one free trip for every 10 paid persons to help with their staff or kids who may need some help.
That price is all inclusive. Hotels, meals, educational tours, football practices and everything else is paid for. The same package deals are available for family and fans.
Teams will arrive in Ireland on Aug. 30. They will participate in a parade and a pep rally, as well as take part in sightseeing tours and multiple banquets. The Wolves will also receive tickets to the Georgia Tech-Boston College game.
Buford’s history of traveling across the country helped in the decision to invite the team. The Wolves have traveled to Ohio and Texas in recent years. Buford’s three straight state championships (seven of the last eight years) also helped, but it wasn’t a deciding factor.
“(Buford) has been very professional throughout,” Steenberge said. “It’s been really good to work with them, and we look forward to taking them over to Ireland and showing them just a wonderful experience.”