Photo: Josh Martindale. Buford's Nathan Staub (33) goes up and over the Gainesville defense during Friday's game.
GAINESVILLE -- It was billed as one of the top games in the state, but Buford and Gainesville's hyped-up contest quickly turned into a one-sided affair.
Buford, the defending Class AA state champs and Gainesville, which was two points away from the Class AAA title a year ago, clashed on Friday night with the Wolves (1-0) looking like they hadn't missed a beat from 2009 with a 40-19 win over the Red Elephants at City Park.
Both squads came into Friday's contest with multiple questions on the state of their teams with Buford fielding completely new offensive and defensive lines, while Gainesville was looking at an offense that lost 10 starters from a year ago.
"What I saw is that we started fast and I really felt like we played fast and physical tonight," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "That's what I'm excited about because that's the brand of Buford football we're trying to preach and teach to our kids. I just tip my hat to my kids and the way they prepared tonight."
Simpson's fast start couldn't have been any better than he hoped for as the Wolves scored touchdowns on each of their first two offensive plays.
Gainesville took the game's opening possession and picked up a first down but the Buford defense forced a punt. Jamal English took the short kick and returned it to the Red Elephant 29, setting up quarterback Alex Ross' 29-yard touchdown pass across the middle to English.
On the ensuing possession, Gainesville (0-1) again moved the ball, this time reaching midfield, but a sack by Rick Legrant on one play and Nathan Staub and Kurt Frietag on another forced another Red Elephant punt.
Starting on its own 27, Buford hit the board again when Seon Jones ran through a huge hole on the left side and went virtually untouched 73 yards, putting the Wolves up 14-0 with the season barely seven minutes old.
That TD run by Jones was his first of three on the night as the senior running back finished with 148 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
Ross was equally as efficient, completing 5 of 6 passes for 126 yards and two TDs, the second of those an 81-yard catch and run by Dillon Lee early in the second quarter. Ross also added another TD with a 13-yard scramble late in the second quarter.
"You want every group to know that we're hoping not to rebuild but reload and pick up where we left off," Simpson said. "Our coaches did a great job this summer and to have this kind of start is a heck of a job."
After losing last year's star quarterback Blake Sims to graduation (now at Alabama) and offensive coordinator Todd Wofford (now head coach at Central), Gainesville turned its offense over to freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Facing a stiff Buford secondary, Watson put up good numbers in his debut, hitting 19 of 34 attempts for 187 yards with one TD, a 30-yard strike to Michael Lorentz.
He also rushed 19 times for 67 yards, but three interceptions that led to 13 Buford points kept the Red Elephant offense from getting into a rhythm.
Two of those picks came from C.J. Moore, while the third was snared by lineman Josh Cardiello, who was pulled down at the Gainesville 10-yard line by Watson after a long return.