Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:42am
Football 2013: Not resting on success, loaded squad Buford wants more
By Morgan Lee Editor
BUFORD: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Green, Gold and White
CURRENT REGION: 7-AAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Jess Simpson, 10th season, 108-8
2012 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-3, Class AAA champion
KEY LOSSES: OL/DT Josh Cardiello, RB Dontravious Wilson, TE/DE Mikey Bart, Saf Jaylen Mize
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Pro set, multiple I -- the Wolves pride themselves on a grinding ground game but will also hit for big pass plays. The unit has incredible depth at almost every position.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. RB Thomas Wilson (400-plus yards rushing in 2012), Sr. RB Zavior Hoxie (700-plus yards rushing in 2012), Jr. RB Joshua Thomas, Sr. FB Donte' Gordon, Sr. QB Taylor Mitchell and Sr. QB Montgomery VanGorder (rotation combined for 1,600 yards passing and 18 TDs in 2012), So. TE Isaac Nauta
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-3 -- Buford gets after the ball en masse and usually overwhelms opponents at the line of scrimmage. Good luck finding any holes in this year's unit.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. LB Korie Rogers (Clemson commit, leading tackler in 2012), Sr. MLB Deion King, So. DL Benjamin Frazier, Jr. DL Nick Polino, Sr. DL Nick Lulkowski, So. DE Isaac Nauta, Jr. DE Tyler Shipman, Sr. DB Thomas Wilson, Sr. DB Terrance Wilson, Sr. Saf Tre' Neal
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jr. PK Matthew Bonadies, Jr. P David Curry
STRENGTH: Experience and depth -- With the exception of some back-up positions, the Wolves have lettermen returning at every spot. And Buford's biggest issue may be finding enough playing time for the talent it has available at running back.
QUESTION: Intangibles -- Nearly every championship team will reach a point where it needs that extra something to push it over the brink to a title. Now it's time for the class of 2013 to prove it can provide that push.
KEY GAMES: The opener against Elbert County (Aug. 30) will be an interesting tone-setter against an athletic team that kept Buford's offense at bay for much of last season's contest. The Sept. 6 contest at Gainesville is a game that every football around the state has circled, as the two defending state champs square off at City Park. Last year's showdown was a thriller, and many of the same players are back for 2013. A home game against a strong White County (Oct. 11) could prove interesting, though the regular season finale at North Hall (Nov. 8) should also be huge.
TRENDING: There only seems to be one trend at Buford -- and that is championships. The Wolves claimed their eighth in 12 seasons in 2012 and return the bulk of that team. Even with all the pressure of continuing their dominance, Buford's players and coaches seem to take a genuine enjoyment in the process, which could easily get laborious.
Aug. 30 vs. Elbert County
Sept. 6 at Gainesville
Sept. 13 vs. Hancock Central
Sept. 27 vs. Banks County
Oct. 4 at West Hall
Oct. 11 vs. White County
Oct. 18 at Dawson County
Oct. 25 at Fannin County
Nov. 1 vs. East Hall
Nov. 8 at North Hall
BUFORD -- Make no mistake, Buford football coaches and players savor every victory and every championship... and then move right on to the next task.
That refusal to rest on success is a big part of the Wolves' incredible success story and a reason why they can point to a trophy case that is in constant danger of overflow.
"I just love that the people below, above and beside me are never satisfied," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "And even when we win we want to keep getting better."
With that in mind, the Wolves will open 2013 with familiarly lofty goals, returning the bulk of a squad that netted the program's eighth championship in 12 seasons last campaign and is stocked with talent and depth.
As Simpson notes, however, that talent isn't behaving like "talent."
They also have the understanding of last year's title run to lean on, a campaign that saw Buford field one of its most inexperienced teams and overcome a number of adversities -- including a rare regular season home defeat and two forfeits that cost the Wolves a shot at the Region 7-AAA title and forced them on the road for three of their five playoff contests (the forfeits coming because of a brief use of an ineligible player late in games that were already decided).
"Last year for us was sort of like a magic carpet ride," Simpson said. "Our seniors just took over, and we had great intangibles, great leadership and incredible effort. We've spoken a lot about that this year. We can build on that momentum."
Certainly an impressive foundation is in place with a number preseason All-State selections on the roster, including linebacker/tight end Korie Rogers, defensive back/running back Thomas Wilson and offensive lineman Hunter Holland.
And that's just scratching the surface.
Buford features a stable of standout running backs in Wilson, Zavior Hoxie, Joshua Thomas (tailbacks) and Donte' Gordon, Tyler Shipman, David Curry and Jordan Perlotte. The tight end and receiver positions are also stocked with sophomore tight end Isaac Nauta already drawing attention from FBS programs and Tre' Neal and Terrance Wilson featuring at receiver.
Buford will also continue its two-quarterback rotation that it used to great success last season between Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery VanGorder -- who combined for almost 1,600 yards passing and 18 TDs in 2012.
"Those two guys worked and had a great summer," Simpson said. "Both of them do a lot of things really well. I tell people we've got the best back-up quarterback in state bar-none; I just don't want to find out who it is. It's a nice luxury to have."
There is also Buford's bread and butter: a stout line of scrimmage, with five recognized standouts in Nick Lulkowski, Shane Robinson, Nick Polino, Holland and Harrison Morgan, as well as a fierce battle to get into the rotation as back-ups.
The same is true at defensive line, with Benjamin Frazier featuring at defensive tackle and five players rotating at two defensive end spots, including Nauta, Shipman, Quay Picou, Perlotte and Gordon. The strength of the defense, however, could be its linebackers, with Rogers and Deion King bringing size, power and speed to the position.
The secondary will also be deep, with the Wilson twins (Thomas and Terrance), Hoxie, Neal and Curry rotating with a number of other players.
"From a schematic standpoint we're way ahead of where we were a year ago, because last year was one of the most inexperienced teams we've had in a while," Simpson said. "We have to guard against that. That certainly doesn't mean we know everything."
Understandably, the Wolves are eager to get the campaign going -- one that will feature a number of intriguing contests, including the season opener with Elbert and game two at Gainesville, as well as a strong Region 7-AAA slate that finishes up at North Hall.
"The excitement is building right now; football is a grind. We've been working since January. We're just looking forward to playing again," Simpson said. "And this team is looking forward to establishing their own identity. They're competing against the ghosts of teams past in a lot of ways. But they're going to set their own standard."
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