Buford running back Andre' Johnson (32) fumbles the ball in overtime which is recovered by Calhoun DB Heath Everett (18) in the Calhoun Yellow Jackets 27-24 overtime victory over the Buford Wolves in the GHSA State Finals at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.
Highlights from Buford's 27-24 overtime loss to Calhoun in the Class AA state title game on Dec. 9, 2011.
Staff Photo: John Bohn Buford's Andre' Johnson rushes for a gain during the second quarter of the class AA championship game against Calhoun. Buford was defeated by Calhoun 27-24 in overtime in the Class AA state championship game played in the Georgia Dome Friday.
Buford vs. Calhoun state title game highlights
From the Class AA Championship
* Additional Game Action Photos
* Spotted fan photos
* Title loss not what Buford has come to expect
* Calhoun stuns Buford to win state title
* Emotional roller coaster leaves Wolves feeling low
* Buford meets defense like its own
ATLANTA -- All season, Buford thrived with its defense.
It was a unit that entered Friday's state title game against Calhoun allowing less than six points a game and just 12 touchdowns in 14 games. It forced 30 turnovers and held teams to barely more than 100 yards of offense per game.
They got a good look in the mirror against Calhoun.
The Yellow Jackets forced four turnovers, all fumbles, two inside the 20-yard line as the Wolves looked prime to score. And though Buford racked up 347 yards of offense, it converted just 2 of 9 third downs and failed on its one fourth-down attempt.
"They pretty much lined up and did what we thought they were going to do," Buford had coach Jess Simpson said. "They played great defense all year but, you know, they are tough to run on."
Four different Yellow Jackets racked up more than five tackles, six times catching Buford in the backfield and their defenders knocked down six of Sam Clay's 20 pass attempts.
They even picked off a pass, but it was negated by a personal foul penalty.
The dominance reads like a description of Buford.
"(Like our defense) most of the time, yes, sir," Simpson said.
And some of the time Friday.
The Wolves made enough plays to force overtime with the final minute punt block, but the Yellow Jackets answered by forcing the deciding fumble.
"They had all the momentum in the world," said Calhoun quarterback Taylor Lamb of Buford. "I was really nervous, really nervous. Our defense made a play in overtime."
Calhoun had converted just 2 of its first 10 third down chances against Buford into the fourth quarter.
But backed up inside their 20 and trying to sap clock, the efficiency arrived. The Yellow Jackets converted third downs of 12 and 10 yards, 2 of 3 on a drive that ended with a field goal.
And nothing made the difference more than the play of quarterback Taylor Lamb.
The junior rushed for 39 of his 55 yards in the second half, including a 15-yard touchdown run that put Calhoun up 18-10 in third quarter.
"We had a play called, it was my play and blocking did a great job," Lamb said of his touchdown. "I got to the outside and just dove for the pylon."
"That was huge," Simpson said of the touchdown. "On film we knew he wanted to throw first but he can run. We just got in a situation where we had to pick our poison."
Lamb delivered it in the second half.
"I was a little nervous to start with," he said. "We made great adjustments at halftime and it made us state champs."
Penalty (near) kill
When Calhoun's Darius Washington took a screen pass 63 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 2:26, the Yellow Jackets grabbed the energy of the Georgia Dome. Buford had fumbled away two possessions and missed a field goal.
But Calhoun's players were too excited.
The post-touchdown celebration drew an unsportsmanlike 15-yard penalty on the kickoff and a ball that would have landed five yards into the end zone was returned to the Yellow Jackets' 32 yard line.
The next play Buford sucked all of Calhoun's energy way with C.J. Moore's 68-yard touchdown run tying the game at halftime.
In the second half the costly penalties continued, Buford scored the first of its two late touchdowns thanks to a pair of personal foul penalties on the same play that wiped out an interception and moved the Wolves 30 yards closer to the goal line.
In all, Calhoun overcame seven penalties for 75 yards.
With Calhoun finally getting the best of Buford, the Yellow Jackets avoiding tying a state mark for title game futility. Adairsville, Calhoun's neighbor by 10 miles, is the only team in Georgia to ever lose four consecutive state championships when it lost title chances from 1969-1972.
Streaks start, end
Not only did Calhoun finally end Buford's win streak at 27 games, the Yellow Jackets also get a chance to start one of their own.
Entering Friday, they Yellow Jackets had 53 consecutive wins against teams not named Buford. But with three straight state final losses, the best true win streak they managed was 14.
Now it's 15 and Buford is back to zero for the first time since its September 2010 loss to Carver-Columbus.
The loss was Buford's first in the Georgia Dome, dropping them to 9-1 under the roof and head coach Jess Simpson's record to 4-1. Friday was Buford's first playoff loss anywhere since a quarterfinal loss to Charlton County in 2006.