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2007 GSWA award winner, 1st place: Buford claims title, perfection with rout

BUFORD - How do you measure the greatness of the 2007 Buford football team?

The best in Class AA? No doubt.

The best in any classification this year? That will be debated in message board conversations for months to come.

The best Wolves' team ever? That's up for more discussion.

On Saturday night, Buford made a strong statement that the answer to all those questions is yes by overwhelming Lovett 50-0 in the AA state championship game in front of 5,148 fans at Tom Riden Stadium. The 15-0 Wolves threw just two passes and completed neither, but rushed for 408 yards on a rain-soaked night.

The state title was the school's fifth, joining teams from 2003, 2002, 2001 and 1978.

"Arguably, it's us or 2003," Buford linebacker T.J. Pridemore said when asked if this year's team is the school's best. "But I'm going to say it's us. Definitely."

It's hard to argue with the results.

The whipping of Lovett followed a 48-0 annihilation of Dublin the previous week in the state semifinals at the Georgia Dome. Few teams show such domination late in the playoffs, but Buford won its final two games by a 98-0 margin and evoked a fourth-quarter running clock because of the mercy rule in both rounds.

"Certainly there hasn't been (a Buford state championship team) more dominant in how they won it than this one," said Buford athletic director Dexter Wood, the head coach of the Wolves' 2001-2003 state title teams. "What they did in the Dome and tonight is incredible. They were just dominant."

Buford's defense stifled Lovett from the start.

The Lions (12-3) didn't have a first down until the final play of the third quarter, when the score was already 50-0 and the Wolves' starters were on the bench celebrating.

Buford's starting defense allowed just 16 yards (20 passing and minus-four rushing) and the reserves did pretty well, too. The visitors finished with 92 total yards and five late first downs.

Meanwhile the offense did what it does best, physically overpowering Lovett with the running game. The Wolves' front opened gaping holes all night for running backs Demetris Murray (14 carries, 193 yards, 1 touchdown) and Tyler King (13 rushes, 75 yards, 3 TDs), allowing Buford to give the passing game a rest on a rainy night.

"The thing that blows me away, coaches talk all the time about playing your best at the end of the season and taking it the next level (for the playoffs)," Buford's Jess Simpson said of his first state title as head coach. "But at the end of the year, the last five weeks, we've just been a holy terror. We've played lights out five straight weeks. It's just awesome."

Buford used little deception on the game's opening possession, driving 80 yards in eight runs, all between the tackles. Murray's first three carries gained 12, 29 and 32 yards before a 1-yard TD run by King.

Jaytee Swanson intercepted Lovett's Jonathan Carkhuff three plays later, returning the pick 30 yards to set up Lawson McGlon's 34-yard field goal.

Lovett then had three straight possessions of three-and-out, the first of which was followed by a 62-yard run from Murray. King scored on a 4-yard run to make it 16-0 after a quarter, then King added a 17-yard scoring run early in the second quarter after Lovett punter Michael Steele took a knee while handling a low snap.

The Wolves' final scoring drive of the first half went just 54 yards, but lasted 15 plays and took 7:07 off the clock. Quarterback Twoey Hosch's scramble and dive into the end zone provided the TD for a 30-0 halftime lead. At intermission, Buford had 236 rushing yards and Lovett had 13 total yards. The Lions' star running back, Andre Hicks, had six carries for 9 yards in the first half.

"The running backs, Cody Getz, Demetris Murray and the big guys up front, Tyler King and the offensive line, it all started right there," said Pridemore, who also saw duty at tight end. "Being in the offensive huddle, it was like, 'We're not throwing it tonight. It's all up the middle.'"

Lovett started the second half with three more three-and-outs and Buford scored on its first two drives, needing just five plays total on the two marches. Murray's 14-yard TD run and Getz's 40-yard scoring run made it 43-0.

Before the midway point of the third quarter, Buford's starters left the field to a standing ovation.

"I would say that this senior class definitely ranks up there with the best ones in Buford history," Hosch said.

An errant Lovett snap gave Buford its last score as Andy Kellogg fell on it in the end zone for the 50-point margin. It finished off an overwhelming victory, which was much different than Game 10 when the Wolves defeated Lovett 21-0 for the Region 6-AA title.

This one was nowhere near that close.

"Buford's got an outstanding football team," Lovett head coach Mike Muschamp said. "They're well-coached, they've got good athletes and they play hard on every play. They are what most everybody in AA is trying to be.

"I watched Northside (Warner Robins, the AAAA state champ) last night and I think Buford could give them a heck of a football game."

The Wolves can easily boast that they're the best in AA. They averaged 45.2 points this season while holding opponents to a 4.4 scoring average. Only three-time defending state champion Charlton County, which lost 21-14 to Buford in the quarterfinals, gave the Wolves a true test.

The rest of the schedule was filled with blowouts, with two of the biggest ones coming in the last two weeks.

"These seniors that have been here four years, they're a special, special group," Simpson said. "It's hard sometimes to not compare senior groups, but these guys will come back to their 10-year, 20-year reunions and know they had a special group.

"They had the intangibles, the talent, the love for each other, the respect for the game. They had it all."