THOMSON - Josh Rudnik didn't get invited for the muddy lineman photos after the game.
His number of tackles didn't matter. His tackles for a loss didn't matter. It didn't even matter that the Thomson crowd directed boos at him for making three-consecutive tackles early in the third quarter.
All that mattered was his jersey was too clean.
"I guess the water kind of cleaned me off," Rudnik said. "I was having a lot of fun. I was just trying to blow everything up that came my way."
Lineman Dallas Lee, covered in mud and dirt had another explanation.
"He gets to play out there on the end," Lee said.
Dirty or clean, Rudnik and Lee led the Buford defense to another shutout and a 29-0 win over AAA Thomson in a game controlled by torrent of rain for more than three quarters.
"It was just horrid, for both of us, it was just one of those nights," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said.
But by the end, it was just another win for No. 1-ranked Buford.
The defense only allowed four first downs and 63 yards total offense by Thomson, minus-9 in the second half. The special teams blocked a punt and Buford started all but one of its five scoring drives on its side of the 50.
"Defense and special teams were lights out the whole night," Simpson said. "We kept field position most of the night and finally in the second half we started clicking a little bit on offense and started controlling the game."
A blocked punt late in the first quarter was the first-half difference for the Wolves. After Jeffrey Gazaway blocked and recovered the Thomson punt on the 15, Cody Getz hammered his way for 10 of those 15, including the 2-yard scoring dive. A missed extra point gave the Wolves the 6-0 lead.
The rest of the half belonged to Buford's defense, Lee and a big penalty.
Buford allowed just 72 yards of total offense in the first two quarters and only three Thomson first downs. At one point in the second quarter the defensive lineman Lee collected four consecutive tackles including a sack and a thundering blow in the backfield.
"They ran a lot of plays we had practiced all week," Lee said. "They just ran the right plays at the right time."
Following Lee's sack, Getz took the punt back 60 yards to the 13-yard line, but a Buford penalty for blocking in the back brought the ball all the way back to the 20 and the ensuing Buford drive stalled.
The Wolves only managed 110 yards of offensive in the hard-driving rain. Quarterback Michael May fumbled and recovered two snaps and the Wolves failed on a fourth down conversion.
The defense continued to dominate and as the rain ebbed, the Wolves offense, sparked by a 48-yard touchdown run by Jessel Curry and 72 yards by Cody Getz started to move the ball. It even made up for its failed fourth down conversion by converting a fourth-and-11 on a 27-yard pass from Michael May to Rudnik, who came back to the rain battered pass for the reception.
"I was trying to do whatever I could to catch the ball," Rudnik said. "Getting out there and making a play on offense, I enjoy that."
Every Buford player enjoyed the relatively close game and the soggy field conditions, all taking pride in the grime on their uniforms and face.
"It was fun to run around in the mud, it was like little league," Lee said. "It was awesome. Sliding around. It was definitely a lineman game."