Buford cautious, but confident

On paper, No. 3 state-ranked Buford appears to be getting somewhat of a breather after surviving one of the more stern tests in its two-plus-year reign as Class AA state champions.

However, Wolves coach Jess Simpson is well aware games are not played on paper -- especially not Class AA state quarterfinal games.

So, he would caution anyone to look past the 7-5 record and more towards the talented personnel when the Cook Hornets come to Tom Riden Stadium.

Still, Simpson is confident the Wolves (11-1) will not take Cook lightly and will be ready.

"I would be worried about that normally, but our kids and our fans are pretty savvy," Simpson said. "When you look at Cook, two of their losses are to Tift County -- a (Class) AAAAA team -- and Brunswick -- a AAAA team that made the playoffs. And their three region losses are in 1-AA, one of the toughest regions in the state. They played Brooks County tough. Fitzgerald only managed to separate from them late and Thomasville beat them.

"(After looking at them on tape), their speed of play is like nothing we've been used to (this year). They play at a very fast pace, and their also very physical. Our kids know what they're in for."

What Buford is in for is another hard-nosed football game after surviving one in a 30-22 win at No. 6 Jefferson in last week's second round.

The Wolves gave up more points (22) than they had allowed in their previous eight games combined, but made just enough plays -- and got their customary balanced offensive attack -- to keep the Dragons at arm's length.

"I think (last week's win) gives us momentum," Simpson said. "But we're still not playing as good as we want to play yet. Our offense stepped up and did some good things. Defensively, certainly Friday was not one of our best games. Part of it was that we played a really good offense in Jefferson, but we've got to do better."

Simpson knows his team will have to do a better job defensively this week, especially against a team as potent as Cook.

The Hornets have scored 26 or more points in seven games this season, and has averaged 28.4 points in their last five games.

And they've done it with an equally potent running game -- led by junior running back Shannon Brown and senior Armad Turner -- and passing attack -- led by sophomore quarterback Zach Folsom and junior receiver Trey Register.

"Their two running backs are very special," Simpson said. "And they do a good job of throwing and catching the ball. Hopefully, we can play keep away. That's kind of been our identity on offense. And our defense will have to do a good job of tackling in space and matching their speed."