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Clay, passing game help Wolves' offense

Photo: Craig Cappy Buford's Nathan Staub (33) finds a hole and runs for 5-yards while his teammates Tyler Burge (51) and Deion King (46) help block during Friday's game against Elbert County.

Photo: Craig Cappy Buford's Nathan Staub (33) finds a hole and runs for 5-yards while his teammates Tyler Burge (51) and Deion King (46) help block during Friday's game against Elbert County.

BUFORD -- Buford's 49-13 win over Elbert County on Friday night in the Class AA state quarterfinals was typical of many Buford's wins in recent years.

Buford dominated defensively, not surrendering a first down until 5:15 left in the third quarter, while the offense received its usual outstanding performance from its running game with 224 yards.

But Friday night, the running game wasn't the only contributing factor on offense as the passing game put up solid numbers, as well.

On an offense that has averaged just over 76 yards passing per game through 12 contests, Friday's performance more than doubled that number as the Wolves posted 181 yards through the air.

"It went really well tonight," Buford quarterback Sam Clay said. "All the schemes worked to our advantage and the line gave me great protection and time to throw it."

Clay had a stellar night, hitting 10 of 15 attempts for 181 yards and one touchdown. What made those totals more impressive was that 154 of those yards came in the first half.

"We've got a lot of confidence in Sam and our offensive line has a good idea about protection," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "The tight ends caught the ball tonight, the backs caught the ball and everyone contributed. Our receivers block their tails off for our running backs and it's good to get them the ball sometimes."

Clay's favorite target on the night was Ryan Dillard, who caught four balls for 57 yards. He also hooked up with Paris Head four times for 31 yards.

"Sam's a good leader and plays hard," Buford quarterback coach Neal Auer said. "He's a tough kid and has waited his turn to get in there. He made a lot of good plays tonight."

The only rough stretch Clay had came late in the first half when the Wolves took over on their own 40 with 1:21 left before half.

Leading 21-0, Buford (13-0) was looking for a drive that would give it a late score and effectively put the Blue Devils in massive hole for the second half.

Clay completed his first two tosses on the drive, while a facemask penalty on Elbert County on third down gave Buford a fresh set of downs at the Elbert 47.

With under a minute left, Clay threw the ball five consecutive times with four incompletions and one play wiped off with offsetting penalties.

Those four misses were the only real blemish in Clay's game.

"We didn't have many incompletions and most of those came when we were in a two-minute situation," Simpson said. "You need your quarterback to play well this time of year and Clay certainly is."

Clay's biggest play of the night came courtesy of running back Nathan Staub, who took a short pass out in the left flat and outran the Elbert defense for an 82-yard TD midway in the second quarter.

That play marked the second week in a row that Staub broke free for a long score as the North Carolina commit broke free for a 90-yard TD in last week's win over Jefferson County.

"I got a little tired at the end and hoped that no one would catch me," Staub said, who also added a 1-yard TD run and recovered a fumble. "I didn't realize that I had scored until I reached the end zone. Sam and the offensive line did a great job all night. We can really make (passing) plays when we get the opportunity."

The opportunity for Staub's 82-yard TD came as a result of Buford's running game. Elbert had been playing up in the box to guard against the run, and Clay's play fake and roll out to his left set up the perfect scenario.

"I saw him and he was so wide open," Clay said. "I had to get the ball to him."

After making a tackler miss near his own 30, Staub was escorted by a pair of Buford receivers, giving him his 11th TD of the year.

"Our running game is our strong point but Elbert bit on the play fake and Staub was wide open," Buford lineman Vadal Alexander said of Staub's 82-yard TD catch. "He's a real talent and you had better remember that name."