Buford, Calhoun meet again in state finals

Photo: Craig Cappy Buford's Kurt Freitag (41) takes a pass and picks up yardage before he is tackled by Elbert County's Eric Eberhardt (42) during a recent playoff game.

Photo: Craig Cappy Buford's Kurt Freitag (41) takes a pass and picks up yardage before he is tackled by Elbert County's Eric Eberhardt (42) during a recent playoff game.


Staff Photo: John Bohn Buford's Dontravious Wilson breaks a handful of Carver tackles during the Class AA semifinals last week.

Hal Lamb is tired of playing Buford.

Can you really blame the Calhoun head football coach?

The Yellow Jackets have faced the Wolves in the Class AA state finals the last three years -- all wins by Buford.

The two teams will meet again today in the Class AA state championship for the fourth straight year. Only this time Lamb is hoping for a different outcome.

"I'm really tried of playing them to be honest with you," Lamb said. "They are very good and well coached. They are a lot physical and stronger than we are. It's almost like paling a small college team with all those players they have."

Buford has been the model of success since 2000. The Wolves set the state record of 47 consecutive wins during its three-peat from 2001-03. This year's class can make history as well by becoming the first program to win five state titles in a row.

"We're certainly not thinking about the last few years," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "It doesn't have anything to do with Friday. It's all about this year's team."

Calhoun hasn't won a state title since 1952 and another loss would tie them with the 1969-72 Adairsville's teams that lost four titles in a row. The Yellow Jackets are 54-5 over the last four years, while Buford is 57-2.

"It's the two best teams in AA," Simpson said.

Calhoun has closed the gap against Buford since first playing them in the first title game. The Yellow Jackets lost 45-21 in 2008, 13-10 in 2009 and 31-24 in overtime last year.

"Two years ago, we went in that game thinking we didn't have a chance and after the game we were still a little shocked we won," Simpson said. "If we played them 10 times, I don't know if we would have won another one. Last year, obviously, was a crazy close game."

Buford won last year's contest in overtime on a nine-yard TD run by Domonique Swope.

"It will be very similar to last year, I hope," Lamb said. "Our goal is to have a chance in the fourth quarter and then see what happens."

Taking Buford (14-) to the fourth quarter would be a rarity this season. The Wolves are on a 27-game winning streak and have dominated most of the season, routinely playing their second-string in the fourth quarter.

Buford faced its biggest challenge last week against Carver-Columbus, trailing 13-7 at halftime.

Nathan Staub ran for a touchdown toward the end of the third quarter to give Buford the lead again and Sam Clay and Rick LeGrant added scores.

"They execute on both sides of the ball very well. They are solid everywhere," Lamb said. "Most teams have a weakness that you can pick on. They don't have one."

Buford averages 44.5 points a game and is led by running back Andre Johnson, who has 1,006 yards and 18 TDs.

The defense has allowed just 5.9 points a game and features five starters that are headed to Division I schools. Linebacker Dillon Lee and defensive end Kurt Freitag are committed to Alabama.

Calhoun (14-0) is the highest scoring team in Class AA, averaging 45 points a game and is led by quarterback Taylor Lamb, the nephew of the head coach. The first-year starter has thrown for nearly 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns, including 10 in the postseason.

Taylor Lamb's favorite target has been his cousin Ben, the son of Hal, who has 69 catches and 13 TDs.

"They throw it at a better rate than anyone else," Simpson said.

The defense has allowed 14 or less points in 12 of its 14 games, including last week's 51-14 win over Appling County. The group is led by the linebackers Alex Kirby and Hunter Knight. Kicker Adam Griffith is committed to Alabama.

Buford has had tremendous success in recent years, including its wins over Calhoun. But Simpson isn't worried that will create overconfidence against a very strong Calhoun squad.

"I really don't feel like that's an issue," Simpson said. "A lot of our kids have played against them and know how tough they are."