Buford seniors trying to end career with another title

You could sense they were a special group when they were freshmen.

This year's Buford senior class did things that most ninth-graders are not allowed to do.

After a dominating regular season, winning every game by several scores, many freshmen were called up to practice with the varsity.

The group didn't just stand around holding tackling dummies, they actually held their own against the seniors.

"We could just see we were more mature and ready to play," Buford senior Vadal Alexander said.

Now as seniors, the group has become one of the most decorated classes to ever walk the halls of Buford. The Wolves will play Calhoun today in the Georgia Dome for Class AA state championship.

It's a familiar spot for Buford, which has won the last four state championships and can set a state record with a fifth consecutive title.

"I couldn't say enough about our class. We're just all real close. All of us are best friends," tight end Kurt Freitag said. "We want to go out with a bang and get our five-peat. We talk about it, but we're all just glad we get another shot."

With so much talent and experience returning from last season's title team, this year's group has faced the pressure of continuing that success.

To make it even harder, they set the preseason goal of being the best team to ever come though Buford. Many consider the 2003 and 2007 squads to be Buford's greatest, but a win today and this year's team can make a strong claim.

"Our coaches are comparing our talent and how many good players we have to some of the past state championship teams, like the '07 team," Freitag said before the season.

"We're going to try and leave our mark with our coaches as the best team and also in the community."

The 2003 team was the first to play in four straight state championships. They lost as freshmen and then won the next three titles, setting a state record of 47 straight wins along the way. Their 58-2 record is the best in Buford history. The offense was led by running back Darius Walker as they averaged 41.3 points per game. The defense featured Neil Brown and allowed 6 points per game. They had nine players sign college scholarships, including six to Division I schools.

"It's tradition. Buford football is a lot of winning, a lot of success," Alexander said.

The 2007 squad started the current run of four straight championships. They scored 681 points, which is the second-most in state history. The defense was led by Omar Hunter and T.J. Pridemore and gave up just 4.4 points a game. They had 12 players go on to play college football, including six with Division I programs.

"The more you win, the expectations are to win every year," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "Playing for Buford as a senior demands success. It can be a burden. It's a heavy weight to carry. Nothing but winning their last game will be good enough."

Whether this year's class is better than the 2003 and 2007 squads is up for debate, but they certainly make a pretty good case.

This year's team is on a 27-game winning streak and has a four-year record of 57-2, just one win away from tying the '03 class. They've won more games than the senior classes of Berkmar, Central Gwinnett, Duluth, Meadowcreek and Shiloh combined.

This year's team has scored more points (44.5 ppg) than the 2003 team and have more wins and championships than the 2007 team. They've allowed 5.9 points per game, which is right behind the '07 team.

"Other than winning the state championship, we want to be known as the best Buford team to come through," Alexander said before the season. "Most people say '07 and '03 are the best, so that's the two teams we are fighting to beat."

Buford has seven players committed to Division I program, which includes Alexander (LSU), Reid Ferguson (LSU), Freitag (Alabama), Paris Head (Vanderbilt), Dillon Lee (Alabama), C.J. Moore (Virginia) and Nathan Staub (North Carolina). Quarterback Sam Clay has signed a baseball scholarship with Georgia Tech and the Wolves have another handful of players that will sign scholarships at some level.

It's the most talent one senior class has ever had at Buford, but that shouldn't be too much of a surprise looking back on them as freshmen.

The group has never lost in the state finals and they need just one more win to state their claim as the best ever in Buford history.

"It's been a long four years. I've enjoyed it, it's been a good ride. It's just one more game. We win this and we've accomplished everything we wanted to," Alexander said. "If we win Friday, then I feel we should be the best team in school history. I mean, what else do we have to do?"