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Dome Day: Wolves ready for early kickoff
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BUFORD — T.J. Pridemore admitted that he has a hard time with staying up too late and having to get up early.

Then why is Buford’s senior linebacker actually excited about getting up at 5 this morning after having gone to bed around 8 p.m. the night before? Because he and the rest of the Wolves (13-0) will be playing in the Class AA semifinals against Dublin (11-2) in the Georgia Dome at 9 a.m. today.

"I’m excited about it," Pridemore said. "At least we get to get up first thing in the morning and play ball. We don’t have to sit around all day and have all day to think about it."

The Wolves won’t have much time to do anything today except get ready for their game against the Fighting Irish.

After a light workout and dinner at the school Friday, players were expected to be at home and in bed close to 8 p.m. Coaches even called players’ houses to make sure they weren’t staying up late.

"Getting kids up at 5 a.m. is never easy," Buford coach Jess Simpson said with a laugh.

Following the pre-sunrise wake-up call, all players were expected to be at the school by 5:30 a.m., which is when the buses left for the Georgia Dome.

Simpson planned on being at the venue by 6:30 a.m.

"We were all kind of shocked," quarterback Twoey Hosch said. "I guess you can’t sleep in."

Sleeping in is definitely not an option with the air-tight itinerary Simpson has planned out.

"We’ll plan on starting our usual pre-game routine by 7 a.m. with tape and dress," the coach said. "That gives us about 30 minutes to just walk through and get ready."

Hosch had a suggestion for anyone that needed a few extra minutes of sleep.

"I guess we’ll get to sleep on the bus," he said.

An early morning game is foreign to most football teams. Buford has played in the 9 a.m. Dome game before, in 2001 and 2002, but no player on this year’s roster has had a kickoff that early.

In their season opener against Grove City in the Herbstreit Classic in Ohio, the Wolves kicked off at 11 a.m.

"I think that is going to help us prepare for this game," Hosch said earlier in the week.

Buford’s preparation for today’s kickoff will be similar that of a normal 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff, just pushed back 13.5 hours.

"It’s just a normal schedule, just in the morning," Pridemore said Friday afternoon. "Everything gets pushed back. That starts tonight."

Simpson has been stressing the importance of adjusting the usual game schedule for this unique situation.

"What you do 36 hours before in practice, you have to be careful," Simpson said. "I’ve been really focusing on hydrating and feeding the kids all week and making sure they get enough rest."

The Wolves will likely need all the rest they can get for today’s opponent, defending state champion Dublin.

Dublin and Charlton County, Buford’s quarterfinal opponent, tied for the Class AA state title last year. This year, Dublin, of Region 4-AA, is a region champion, a No. 1 seed and has won its last nine games.

The Fighting Irish beat Pepperell 27-13 in the quarterfinals to advance to the Georgia Dome.

When asked about their opponent, Buford players usually had the same response.

"They are very big up front," Hosch said.

"They are really big," Pridemore said.

For a change, Buford is likely to be the smaller team on the field today. The rest of the numbers, however, look to be in the Wolves favor.

"They run a lot of formations. They have a lot to prepare for," Pridemore said. "They run a lot of misdirection. It’s hard to stop that stuff, especially with those big guys up front. ... We’re just going to have to play harder."

Buford is averaging 14.6 more points per game than Dublin and are giving up an average of 8.7 points fewer than Dublin.

Also, the undefeated Wolves have a four-year title drought to motivate them to get past Dublin and into the state championship game.

At a program with as much history as Buford, state titles are like an itch that has to be scratched. The Wolves have not scratched that itch since 2003.

"Going to the Dome is definitely special and we are definitely not looking past this game," Pridemore said. "But this senior class is special and we have bigger goals."

By the end of the game, Simpson, who has been through a couple of 9 a.m. games, said that time is the least of anyone’s concerns.

"Afterwards, you are so exhausted, you don’t know if its 9 at night or 12 in the day," he said. "You just want to get on the bus and go home and go to bed."

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