Posted: Friday, December 12th 2008 at 10:00pm
Buford football plows under Calhoun, claims sixth state title
By Morgan Lee Editor
Buford football player Devin Durden celebrates with Wolves fans after Buford claimed the Class AA championship over Calhoun on Friday night at the Georgia Dome. / photo: David McGregor, Photographic Arts
ATLANTA -- About the only bad thing you could say of Buford football this season is that this may not be the most talented Wolves team of all time.
Frankly, Buford could care less.
As of Friday night, the 2008 Wolves are now amongst the all-time greats in Buford history after clinching a state title via a hardfought 45-21 win over Calhoun in the Class AA championship contest at the Georgia Dome.
It is the Wolves sixth state title and second in a row -- it is also their fifth in nine seasons.
The win also tied Buford for most wins in a decade with Valdosta’s record of 125 (1980-89) -- and the Wolves have another season to break that record.
Yet for all the superlatives, this Buford (15-0) team would rather be remembered for the hard work and attitude displayed throughout the season -- and of course that state title.
“This year’s team was so much more plowhorse than showhorse,” Wolves coach Jess Simpson said. “We didn’t have the talent that we had on last year’s team -- there’s not six or seven guys who will sign division-I scholarships out of this senior class, like last season.
“But these kids are a great bunch and have worked so hard all season, and they just wanted to prove themselves so bad.”
And they had to prove it on Friday, as Calhoun (12-3) fought the Wolves to a standstill through two-and-a-half quarters, trailing just 28-21 with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
Then the plowhorse dug a little deeper, as Buford scored 17 straight points in the third and fourth quarters to turn a close game into a 45-21 lead with 6:24 to play.
Cody Getz did much of the damage, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 236 yards on 21 carries. The senior running back’s 31-yard touchdown blast midway through the fourth put the game out of reach.
“For that to be his last game, you talk about someone who loves Buford football... He will be missed,” Simpson said. “But so much of that was about the offensive line too. They really grind on people with their big ol’ bodies, and they blocked so well in the second half.”
Buford’s men in the trenches did a good job throughout the night, clearing the way for 360 yards rushing on 40 carries for the Wolves -- an average of nine yards per attempt -- and 240 of that came in the second half.
“We live for the second half,” Wolves senior lineman Dallas Lee said. “And coming out and having to work hard for it, not getting a blowout made it more fun.”
Last season, Lee -- who has just one more day of class left before enrolling at the University of Georgia to get a jumpstart on his playing career with the Bulldogs -- was part of a Wolves team that won its semifinal and final by a combined score of 98-0. This season, Buford still dominated, but in a different manner.
“This one means a little more to me,” Lee said of the state title. “As a senior it’s always bigger, plus they say repeating is the hardest thing to do, and we’ve certainly done that now.”
That didn’t necessarily look like a certainty early in the game, as Buford led just 21-14 at the half, but Buford stayed with its power ground game against the Yellow Jackets and began to gain some breathing room in the second half.
Storm Johnson (11 carries, 94 yards) appeared to give Buford all the momentum just after halftime, taking a handoff, breaking a tackle in the backfield and then sprinting 32 yards for a touchdown with 11:21 left in the third quarter and a 28-14 lead.
But Calhoun's Dustin Christian (13 carries, 68 yards) answered right back with an impressive 59-yard touchdown blast to pull the Yellow Jackets within 28-21 with 9:06 left in the third.
The difference in the second half, however, was that each Calhoun score only brought the Yellow Jackets within a touchdown, not knotting the score as it had in the first half. Forced into throwing the ball 31 times, Calhoun quarterback Michael Johnson made two mistakes that led to interceptions. The second killed a Calhoun scoring opportunity and perhaps the game, as Buford’s Jeffrey Gazaway picked off Johnson in the Wolves endzone.
Seven straight run plays later, the Wolves extended their lead to 38-21 on Villafuerte’s field goal.
“When they got two scores down that really made a big difference,” Simpson said. “And Gazaway’s pick was huge.”
The Wolves also had an interception in the first half that led to a score, when Buford's Ja'kar Bridges picked Johnson on the second play from scrimmage. The Wolves took advantage of the turnover to score first, taking a 7-0 lead on Getz's 21-yard scamper with 10:53 left in the first quarter.
Getz was a battering ram for Buford in the first half, scoring three times. His third touchdown gave the Wolves a 21-14 lead with 44 seconds left in the half and displayed the power the 5-foot-7 senior possesses, as he drilled a potential tackler at the 3 and drove into the end zone for a seven-yard scoring play.
Getz's second score came from a yard out with 7:12 left in the second quarter for a 14-7 lead. But Calhoun answered with a three-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Christian with 1:58 left in the first half.
Johnson and his receivers found success against the Wolves secondary, completing 19-of-31 passes for 233 yards and three scores. Yellow Jackets receiver Derek Ramsey had three big catches and finished with 84 yards and a touchdown. DaRick Rogers also had four catches for 68 yards.
And though Calhoun managed a total of 391 yards -- more than 200 yards more than what the Wolves have given up per game this season -- Buford still outgained the Yellow Jackets with 417 total yards of offense.
“We knew they’d make some plays; we just had to be calm and hang in there,” Simpson said. “And we played great down the stretch.”
Plowhorses may never have looked so good.
CALHOUN.........7.........7.........7.........0 -- 21
BUFORD.........7.........14.........14.........10 -- 45
BUF – Getz 21 run (Villafuerte kick) 7-0, 10:53
CAL – Ramsey 32 pass from Johnson (Griffith kick) 7-7, 4:32
BUF – Getz 1 run (Villafuerte kick) 14-7, 7:12
CAL – Christian 3 pass from Johnson (Griffith kick) 14-14, 1:58
BUF – Getz 7 run (Villafuerte kick) 21-14, :44
BUF – Johnson 32 run (Villafuerte kick) 28-14, 11:21
CAL – Christian 59 run (Griffith kick) 28-21, 9:06
BUF – Curry 1 run (Villafuerte kick), 35-21, 6:36
BUF – Villafuerte 31 field goal, 38-21, 7:48
BUF – Getz 31 run (Villafuerte kick) 45-21, 6:24
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