To be a champion, you have to know you can win. It takes bravado to make the big play when the game is on the line, as well as overcoming the odds when the chips are down.
Buford showed those intangible qualities when it pulled out a 31-24 win in overtime to garner the Class AA state championship over Calhoun on Friday at the Georgia Dome. Even though the Wolves (14-1) owned the first half, it was the Yellow Jackets that evened the score by making the big plays in the waning minutes of the game to send it to overtime for the first time in a state championship football game.
But do you think a little adversity could derail Buford’s football dynasty? Not this program. Not this year.
Even though Calhoun sucked all the air out of Buford’s momentum with a long field goal in the final seconds from placekicker Adam Griffith, the Wolves just responded by getting back to the basics of what the Wolves do best — dominate.
Like he’s done his entire career, Wolves quarterback Alex Ross happily took the ball for overtime with the attitude that nothing could keep him from guiding the team to another state championship. When Calhoun decided to give Buford the ball to start the extra period, I can imagine Ross just broke out into a little grin under helmet.
“We felt like if we couldn’t score in overtime, we didn’t deserve to be champions,” Ross said.
Not that scoring a touchdown on Dominique Swope’s 9-yard run on the third play of overtime guaranteed victory for Buford, but bullying Calhoun’s offense on the ensuing drive sure did seal the deal.
With the battles that Buford overcame in this year’s state title game, it might be a little bit sweeter for the players, but that’s a question that an outsider can’t answer. Buford coach Jess Simpson now understands that the eyes of the state are going to be squarely focused on its program going forward with a shot at a record five straight titles next season.
But Simpson doesn’t want to jump the gun. Thinking about next season can wait until this year’s bunch, especially the seniors, get fitted for yet another state championship ring. He makes it clear that the grit and determination that his program showed this season is something that can’t necessarily be coached up on the field.
“Making history is special, but that’s something for someone else to celebrate,” Simpson said. “We have a lot of kids on this team that showed a tremendous amount of guts.”
The only thing that’s bad about a state championship game like this is that one team had to lose. Calhoun was feeling like it may be gearing up for its first state championship since 1952 when Griffith drilled the long field goal in the final seconds of the game.
But never count out a Buford football team. Things didn’t always go as orchestrated for the Wolves in this game, but then again, it’s only the final outcome that matters.