Here’s a little tip for all the Facebooking football players out there: It’s never a good idea to send trash talk to an upcoming opponent, especially when that opponent is the three-time defending champions.
The Cook Hornets learned that lesson the hard way.
After a week of sending virtual verbal jabs, the Wolves (12-1) showed just what can happen when you poke a bee’s nest during their 21-14 win over Cook in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state playoffs Friday at Tom Riden Stadium.
According to a couple of Wolves, some players on Cook sent messages saying that the Wolves were about to go home, and that the Hornets “were going to come up there and show them how to play football.”
“We’ve won three titles in a row, so you really can’t blame them,” junior Dillon Lee said. “The coaches here tell us from Day 1 to always keep your composure and play like you’re another level above everyone else.”
Emotions were running high for both teams at the start of the game, as both sets of captains weren’t all that into shaking their opponents hands. The two teams were also on the receiving end of back-to-back personal foul penalties during Buford’s first drive that showed this game had more to it than a berth to the semifinals.
“When you’re the defending champ, the other team is always going to be excited to play,” coach Jess Simpson said. “That’s part of being the defending champ.
“They were saying a lot about Buford,” he added. “I couldn’t be more proud of how we played through it. It was unbelievable.”
Along with running a solid gameplan that saw the Wolves score 14 straight points after the Hornets tied the game at 7, Simpson should be commended for instilling the importance of composure to his players. It would be perfectly understandable if a high school athlete took all the negative comments and acted on them once he saw that opponent. But these kids won’t do that. They know it’s not in their best interest.
“The coaches kept telling us not to worry about it,” senior Seon Jones said of the trash talk. “Really all it did was make us better. We know what we have to do and we came out here and did it.”
What made the win even more fitting is that, like the pregame trash talk, the Wolves won by being defensive.
Aside from a fourth-quarter touchdown by Cook’s Trey Register that cut the lead to 21-14, Buford’s staunch defense held the Hornets in check.
Simpson’s faith in that defense was on display late in the game when he elected to punt the ball back to the Hornets with three minutes left to play. With the Hornets pinned inside their 5, the defense rose to the occasion by stopping a fourth-down conversion that all but sealed the win.
“We knew they were going to come up here to play,” Simpson said. “We didn’t think it was going to be easy.”
The players didn’t think it’d be easy either, and after the game they talked about how the Hornets pretty much did them two favors: They taught them how to play with composure, and they gave them a tough win that might help them win another state title.
“We’ve been waiting for a close game,” Lee said. “The loss to Carver-Columbus was our last test, and everyone came out here really excited to play against a good football team.”
The Wolves’ win sets up another game against Lovett, a region foe they’ll be playing for the third time in two years, with Buford winning earlier this season.
“Playing Lovett is like a small rivalry,” Jones said. “We’re definitely not going to take anything lightly.”
And if the Lions go the way of the Hornets and post some pregame postulates, the Wolves will do just like they did Friday. First they’ll ignore them, and then they’ll show you why everyone wants to be the one to take them out.
Walk the walk before you talk the talk.
After all, it’s playoff time, and Buford is still Buford.
Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times. You can follow him at twitter.com/gtimesjzopf.