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Buford lone survivor on dark Friday

Buford's Seon Jones (4) breaks a Cook County tackle for a gain during Friday's quarterfinal win at Buford.

Buford's Seon Jones (4) breaks a Cook County tackle for a gain during Friday's quarterfinal win at Buford.

BUFORD -- Forget the annual holiday shopping blitz at the malls, Gwinnett high school football fans had their own version of "Black Friday" during the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.

Four of the county's five representatives -- Grayson, North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge and Wesleyan, plus Apalachee from nearby Barrow County -- fell in their respective quests for the semifinals.

That left Buford as the Gwinnett area's sole survivor following the No. 3 ranked Wolves' 26-0 win over Cook in the Class AA quarterfinals at Tom Riden Stadium.

It is only the fourth season since 1997 -- and the first time since 2006 -- without multiple Gwinnett teams left standing in the semifinal round.

"I saw the (Daily Post's headline in Saturday's edition) said 'Black Friday,'" Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "Fortunately for us, the black death passed us over."

The win puts the Wolves (12-1) back in familiar territory -- in the state semifinals for the eighth time in last 10 seasons, where they will travel to Fitzgerald for a showdown with the second-ranked Purple Hurricanes this Friday.

It also gave them back some of the Buford swagger, which has been tempered a couple of times this season.

The first was when Lovett broke the Wolves' 32-game winning streak with a 28-21 victory at Conley-Oakley Field back on Sept. 11.

Buford got that swagger back by allowing just 21 points over the next eight games to share the Region 6-AA championship with the Lions and Westminster.

More questions arose after surviving a 30-22 scare against No. 6 Jefferson in the second round last week.

Once again, however, the Wolves rose to the occasion with a stifling defensive effort -- resulting in their eighth shutout of the season -- plus a methodical running game that chewed up 311 yards, including 110 by Seon Jones, 87 more by Darrian Smith and three touchdowns from Jessel Curry.

But while it seems like the Wolves were in need of such a confidence boost, Simpson said it's no different from anything past Buford teams have gone through in their decade of dominance.

"You could definitely say (the swagger) is back," Simpson said. "But with any team we've coached at Buford over the last 15 years, there have always been moments in a season when it seemed like there was a chink in the armor, when you don't play as well as you think you are.

"We do have a definition of Buford football and what it's supposed to be, but we redefine that by how we play each week. You're only as good as your last performance."

And the Wolves will have at least one more performance on a familiar stage.