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Posted: Wednesday, December 11th 2013 at 12:21pm

Thomas helps Wolves to title game with Player of Week performance

By Morgan Lee Editor
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Buford running back Joshua Thomas carries for a gain in a game played earlier this season.
When Buford needed an offensive spark on Friday, Joshua Thomas stepped up to provide it.

The junior had shown moments of brilliance throughout the season, but Fridayís explosion was a defining game.

With his team trailing Callaway in the state semifinals, Thomas rolled to 221 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, helping the Wolves to a 24-14 victory and their seventh straight state championship appearance.

"Joshua I thought showed a lot of leadership," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "His intangibles were great as well. He was excited about playing and he wanted to fix the problem, and, man, he ran really hard."

Thomasí big night represented almost a third of his rushing yards on the season to that point and pushed the junior to the brink of the 1,000-yard barrier.

For his efforts, Thomas has been named the Gainesville Jayceesí Player of the Week.

(NOTE: To watch our Player of the Week presentation and a video interview with Thomas, press "play" in the box to the right.)

The imposing running back would love to keep things rolling this week in the state title game in Atlanta , a game which will kick off at 5:30 p.m. and feature live on WDUN AM 500 and 102.9 FM.

Yet Thomas knows it will not be easy against a Washington County team that enters the showdown allowing just 11 points per game -- and it is a test he and his teammates are relishing.

Bufordís rushing attack has been downright nasty in 2013, averaging 272 yards per game, and while no one back has featured week-in, week-out, both Thomas and Thomas Wilson have take on the majority of carries.

Thomas leads the Wolves with 121 attempts for 946 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Wilson is just behind with 90 carries for 812 yards and 16 scores. Evyn Cooper (538 yards, 5 TDs) and Xavier Gantt (456 yards, 7 TDs) have also proved vital components.

Yet backs and coaches alike make it clear that Bufordís offensive line and tight ends are perhaps most praiseworthy, as the group has dominated most opponents this campaign.

"He would probably want to give the award to his offensive line, tight ends and fullbacks because they did an unbelievable job," Simpson said. "Itís a team effort, but Joshua is a very talented young man, a very humble young man. Heís a big body thatís hard to bring down."

Whatever the mix, itís clear the Wolves (14-0) have found yet another unit capable of ultimate success -- though to reach its ninth championship in 13 seasons, Bufordís offense must find a way to overcome a Washington County defense that will stack the box and try to force Buford into third and long situations.

A number of defenses have tried that against the Wolves this season -- and there are now 14 teams that have had little success. Yet Buford is not about to get ahead of itself and knows the Golden Hawks (13-0) will come into the contest fired up to continue their dominant playoff run and notch their programís first state title since 1997 (which capped a run of three championships in three years: í94, í96 and í97). It will also be Washington Countyís first state championship appearance since 2004.

2013 Jaycees Player of the Week winners
Week 1 -- Cody Lamar, running back, Dawson County
Week 2 -- Buford defense
Week 3 -- Jemon Randolph, running back, Flowery Branch
Week 4 -- Kwon Williams, running back, West Hall
Week 5 -- Chance McClure, running back, Commerce
Week 6 -- Andrew Smith, quarterback, North Hall
Week 7 -- TJ Skelton, quarterback, Jefferson
Week 8 -- Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Gainesville
Week 9 -- Jacob Lewis, quarterback, Jackson County
Week 10 -- Charlie Woerner, running back, Rabun County
Week 11 -- Johnathan Gilreath, receiver, Lumpkin County
Week 12 -- Dalton Whitfield, running back/linebacker, White County
Week 13 -- Jefferson offensive line
Week 14 -- JD Sosebee, linebacker, Gainesville
Week 15 -- Joshua Thomas, running back, Buford
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