BUFORD — Most defenses strive on not letting anyone cross their goal line; Buford’s goal is to ensure no one moves the ball past midfield.
Westminster crossed into Buford territory just twice, and only once when the game was within reach, and the Wolves defense recorded five interceptions in a 21-0 win on Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium.
"That was as good a defensive performance as we’ve had around here in a long, long time," said Buford coach Jess Simpson, whose team also recovered two fumbles. "We’ve had our fingers crossed and we feel like we’ve played better defense every week."
It feels that way because the Wolves (8-1, 5-1 Region 6-AA) have. Since their lone loss of the season against Lovett on Sept. 11, the Wolves have allowed only one touchdown during their six-game winning streak.
"That was kind of a kick in the butt," senior Jessel Curry said of the loss to Lovett. "It made us realize we weren’t going to roll over everybody."
The Wolves pretty much rolled over Westminster (6-3, 5-1), but what made Friday’s shutout more impressive to Simpson, was the fact that his defense held Westminster star running back Ralph David Abernathy IV in check and stopped an offense that came in averaging more than 30 points a game.
"We really haven’t faced an offense near this talented," Simpson said. "For us to come out here and pitch a shutout. ... I can’t tell you how proud I am of these kids and the defensive coaches. It’s something."
The defensive game plan started with stopping Abernathy, who entered the game averaging 8.2 yards per carry and had 14 touchdowns on the year. The junior tailback rushed for 113 yards on 21 carries for a 5.4 yards-per-carry average against Buford.
"That kid’s got so much ability and potential," Simpson said of Abernathy. "Our game plan was to simply do your job and if we tackled well, we knew we’d have a chance."
According to Curry, that strategy started up front.
"We knew what plays they were gonna run," said Curry, who scored on a 50-yard pass and intercepted a pass from Jonathan York in the first half. "We emphasized that our front had to play real well, and obviously that happened. All the credit goes to the front and our young safeties in the back."
Both units Curry referred to came up big against Westminster. Sophomore CJ Moore had two interceptions, and sophomore Paris Head and junior Eric Barr each had one. Barr turned the Head interception into a 5-yard touchdown run to give the Wolves a 21-0 lead.
While Barr’s touchdown sealed the win, a play by the defensive front turned the momentum in Buford’s favor.
After Westminster crossed into Buford territory for the first time all game with less than a minute left in the third quarter, the Wolves stopped Abernathy on fourth-and-3 to regain possession.
"We had a great call," Simpson said of the stop. "Mitchell (De-Walt) and Jessel made a great play."
The magnitude of that stop was amplified on the next play from scrimmage when sophomore Nathan Staub broke through the line and rumbled 66 yards for a touchdown to give Buford a 14-0 lead.
"That kind of gave us a deep breath and some momentum," Simpson said.
So did the three turnovers the Wolves forced following that touchdown that secured the win. Combined with Lovett’s 42-14 win over Avondale, it puts the Wolves in a three-way tie for first place in the region, and in line for a first-round home playoff game when the Class AA state playoffs begin Nov. 13.
"It looks like we’re going to have a share of the region title with a chance to be the No. 2 seed," Simpson said. "Our momentum’s going and that’s the most important thing."