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Buford defense aims to stop Gainesville spread

Buford wide receiver Ryan Dillard (28) works to escape a tackle by Blessed Trinity Catholic High School defensive back Chris Dore (4) during a varsity football game playedin Roswell.

Buford wide receiver Ryan Dillard (28) works to escape a tackle by Blessed Trinity Catholic High School defensive back Chris Dore (4) during a varsity football game playedin Roswell.

Buford looks to improve on stout defensive performance

Wolves will try to slow down Gainesville's spread offense

Before the season started, Jess Simpson challenged his defense to be the best to ever walk through Buford.

The Wolves certainly looked like it in last week's opener against Blessed Trinity.

Buford forced six turnovers on its way to a 42-0 win over the Titans.

"We definitely improved quite bit from our scrimmage the week before," Simpson said. "But that's last week. We still have a lot to improve on. I hope they don't think they've arrived."

Buford will face a big challenge in tonight's home opener against Class AAA power Gainesville. The Red Elephants have reached the playoffs the last 11 years, including 2009's state title game.

"Gainesville is an established program," Simpson said.

Tonight is the season opener for Gainesville. The Red Elephants scrimmaged St. Pius two weeks ago and lost 27-0.

Gainesville graduated nine seniors on defense and has six back in its spread offense, most notably quarterback Deshaun Watson.

"It starts with the offense," Simpson said. "They have a great quarterback with a lot athletes around him. They have some playmakers."

Watson threw for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead Gainesville to a 10-2 record as a freshman.

"He's as talented a sophomore around the state as you'll see at quarterback," Simpson said.

Watson will face a Buford defense that intercepted four passes and recovered two fumbles in last week's game against Blessed Trinity. C.J. Moore, Thomas Wilson, Jaylen Mize and Matthew Staples each had INTS. Moore, a Virginia commitment, returned his for a touchdown. Rick LeGrant and Deion King had fumble recoveries, including LeGrant's 15-yard return for a TD.

"That's our goal. We want to get the ball out," Simpson said. "Six is a lot for one night. I'd like to do it again."

With a 35-0 halftime lead last week, Buford was able to play a lot of young players. The Wolves had 17 players carry the ball.

Sam Clay made his debut as a starting quarterback. The Georgia Tech baseball commitment was a solid 6 of 8 passing for 86 yards. He also had a 16-yard run for a score.

"I was really excited with the way he played. He seemed very relaxed," Simpson said. "He did a lot of good things for being a first-time starter."

Tonight's game will start 30 minutes earlier than normal with a 7 p.m. kickoff since it will shown on ESPN360.com.

"You wait all day to play, so it will be good to get on the field a little earlier," Simpson said.