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Buford back at work

Jess Simpson knows there have been plenty of memorable moments during Buford's decade of dominance of the Class AA high school football scene.

Those memories not only apply to those years since he took over as head coach in 2005, but also dating back to his days as an assistant under Dexter Wood.

However, as much as one might think Simpson had seen it all, his No. 3 state-ranked Wolves' 38-28 win over second-ranked Fitzgerald at Jaycee Stadium in Friday's state semifinals added yet another chapter to his book of memories.

"This is just one of those nights which you put into the memory banks forever," Simpson said shortly after Buford (13-1) earned the right to play for yet another state title this Friday against top-ranked Calhoun at the Georgia Dome. "It's going to be a really fun ride home (Friday) night."

What may be most memorable to Simpson about Friday's game is how it didn't come easy, and how it has typified his team's fortitude in this year's playoffs.

Throughout their previous five postseason runs that ended in state championship this decade, the lowest average margin of victory the Wolves have posted in any one season was 23.6 points during the 2001 title season.

While this season's team also boasts plenty of talent -- including three SEC-bound seniors in Jessel Curry, Kolton Houston and Du'Von Millsap -- the level of competition it has faced has also taken a step up.

Faced with the likes of a T. McFerrin-coached Jefferson team and traditional powerhouses like Pepperell, Cook and Fitzgerald, the Wolves have had to earn their eighth trip to the state finals this decade, posting an average margin of victory of just 17 points so far, including Friday's 10-point win over the Purple Hurricane (12-1).

And while they Wolves have prevailed in games of closer margins over the years, it's doubtful they've been tested as hard as they were Friday for quite some time.

Fitzgerald rolled up 340 yards of total offense, and the 28 points it scored tied Lovett (from this September) for the most an opponent has scored on Buford since the 2004 title game.

Add to that overcoming numerous bumps and bruises, plus picking up 5 of 6 critical fourth-down conversions -- including a pair of TD passes from Alex Ross to Kurt Freitag -- and Simpson says it may be one of the Wolves' gutsiest wins in years.

"All those young guys were just hanging in there. I'm just so proud of them," Simpson said.