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Posted: Friday, September 5th 2014 at 8:00pm

Preview: Buford amped for another huge showdown (VIDEO)

By Morgan Lee Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Buford's Shug Frazier gets to grips with a Trinity Christian ball carrier in the Wolves' win on Aug. 23. / photo: David McGregor
BUFORD -- Buford football knows big games -- seven straight championship appearances will do that for you.

But this one has Wolves players and coaches buzzing -- even for a team that opened its 2014 campaign in a game broadcast live on ESPN2.

Not that Buford overlooks lesser opponents, but when the foe is Class AAAAAA power McEachern it can’t help but stoke a fire -- one that was smoldering in the eyes of coaches and players even on Wednesday.

“I know our kids are amped up, and I think our community is going to match that,” Wolves coach Jess Simpson said. “It’s really neat when you have that, because the kids know, and they want to represent our community and the name across their chest. They know there’s a responsibility to do that. And when our folks come out like they did two weeks ago (against Trinity Christian Academy) and like I think they will again this week, it gives our players something a little bit extra.”

(NOTE: To watch a video preview of the game, simply click "play" in the box to the right.)

High School football fans all over the state will be intrigued by the match-up of Class AAAA’s No. 1 (Buford) and Class AAAAAA’s No. 6 (McEachern). And a battle between two teams chock full of future collegiate players will certainly provide something extra in its own right.

Even if McEachern did lose starting tailback Taj Griffin (an Oregon commit) in the season opener -- torn ACL -- there is plenty of talent left to spare on the Indians’ roster, including an offense that Simpson still says presents headaches.

“They’ve got a lot of great parts. I hate it for that kid (Griffin); it’s a tragedy he won’t get to play his senior season,” Simpson said. “But I think the back-up tailback ran a 10.7 (second 100 meters) at the state meet in Jefferson. They have great coaches and great plans. Their offensive line is as good a coached offensive line as there is in the state.”

Buford’s defense has overwhelmed its two opponents faced so far this season, allowing just 100 total yards through two shutouts -- though Indians quarterback Bailey Hockman (302 yards passing and four TDs in their season opener) and receivers T.J. Rahming (175 yards receiving) and Tyler Smith (121 yards receiving) will present a different type of threat than any Buford has faced on the young season.

“They’re extremely balanced with the run and the pass,” Simpson said. “Trying to call a game on defense against that makes it extremely tough because of the balance they have and playmakers that make you defend the whole field. We’ve got a huge challenge trying to slow them down.”

Perhaps the match-up to watch will come in the trenches -- on both sides of the ball.

Both teams feature Football Bowl Subdivision recruits -- Buford’s offensive line includes North Carolina commit Nick Polino, while it’s defensive line features Tennessee commit Quay Picou and junior recruit Shug Frazier. McEachern, meanwhile, anchors its offensive line around Southern Cal commit Chuma Edoga and Louisville commit Chandler Jones. The Indians also lean on junior defensive tackle Julian Rochester.

“We’re expecting a good aggressive, physical battle all the way through four quarters,” Buford senior offensive lineman Shane Robinson said.

Indeed, Simpson says every Wolves player must be prepared for a photo finish against a team that will be champing at the bit to bounce back from a 52-49 loss to North Gwinnett in the Kell Classic on Aug. 23 -- a game the Indians have ruminated on for two weeks.

“Every guy has a heavy load this week from a match-up standpoint. Certainly you know as a player you’re not going to win every match-up for four quarters, but you’ve got to win enough of them, and you’ve got to win them late,” Simpson said. “There’s some spots on the field they can just overwhelm you if you’re not careful, but I think our kids know what they’re getting into, and it will be fun to watch them rise up to that challenge.”

It’s a challenge that Buford relishes and one they hope proves key later in the season, as they look toward another successful season -- their first in Class AAAA.

“To improve you have to brutal facts and be honest with yourself. And playing somebody with the ability of McEachern, the coaching, the depth of McEachern... those are the things that are going to reveal to us where we are as a team, where our strengths and weaknesses are and where we can improve and what it’s going to take for us to be a championship caliber team,” Simpson said.
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