BUFORD — His team back in the state semifinals, Buford High football coach Jess Simpson said something that should worry the remaining three teams in the Class AA championship hunt.
"You know, this team reminds me of last year’s bunch," Simpson said wistfully. "Just the way they are playing this time of year."
Uh oh. Last season saw the Wolves go 15-0 and win the state title in impressive fashion. This year’s crop can match that with two more victories following Friday’s 44-10 romp over Dublin at Tom Riden Stadium.
"We started in January with one thing on our mind, and that was another state championship," said Wolves’ running back Cody Getz. "We want to leave this year just like found it: with another title."
The senior scored two touchdowns and ran for 161 yards as Buford (13-0) advanced to the semifinal round for the seventh time since 2000.
There are more than just final four berths for this program. The Wolves are looking for their second straight unbeaten season and fifth state title since 2001.
Buford outgained Dublin (11-2) 369-147 and forced five turnovers. Next up is Fitzgerald at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, also at Buford.
Storm Johnson scored two touchdowns and Michael May ran for another. Daniel Villafuerte kicked three field goals as the Wolves knocked the Fighting Irish out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
Friday saw the kind of balance that has established Buford as a perennial power. The Wolves ran for 294 yards, while May hit his first six passes and finished 7-of-10 for 75 yards.
"Our backs are so good that it makes it easy for me to do my job," May said. "I had lots of time to throw tonight and try to make plays."
The early plays came from Buford’s defense. The Wolves cashed in two early Dublin turnovers for 10 points. Colt Ours recovered a fumble on the game’s first play at the Irish 27, and Villafuerte put Buford ahead early with a 43-yard field goal.
Ours also ended Dublin’s next drive. The senior end intercepted Rashard Smith on third-and-long, which led to an 18-yard run for Getz five plays later.
"We knew we had to key on (Smith)," Ours said. "If we could control him, we’d have a good chance to win the game. Fortunately that’s what we did."
Dublin scored on consecutive drives to tie the game. Chris Smith caught a 22-yard pass from Rashard Smith late in the first quarter, and Briceton Cannada added a 20-yard field go four minutes later in the second period.
The Wolves scored twice more to close the half. May scored on a 22-yard run, diving inside the left pylon for a touchdown before Villafuerte’s second field goal, a 34-yard kick as the half ended.
The only bleak spot for Buford were penalties. The Wolves committed nine for 75 yards in the first half and finished with 115 yards in penalties.
"I really thought we played a very good half, probably one of our best," Simpson said. "Aside from our guys getting a little too excited and amped up with the penalties, we played great."
It continued in the second half. Buford outgained the Irish 206-49 in the second half and put the game away early in the third quarter. Johnson scored on a 25-yard run on the fourth play of the half, and Getz scored on a 59-yard run on the Wolves’ next possession.
His score came after Buford’s defense forced Dublin into its first three-and-out of the game.
"We have a lot of guys that play both sides of the ball, so I think they were excited and ready to get out there again," Getz said. "We felt like that would be a defining moment."
Simpson said the key to what appears to be another championship run for Buford has been the increasing level of play since the playoffs started. Again, it’s something he saw in last year’s team.
"We’ve really played well since the second half of the GAC game (a 34-6 victory)," Simpson said. "These kids have made it a point to keep the tradition going at Buford. They want to have another championship."