BUFORD -- Buford head coach Jess Simpson said that his football team needed a game like this. Well, most aspects of it, anyway.
Buford overcame a penalty-ridden night and a stubborn Lovett defense to muscle its way 35-7 over the sixth-ranked Lions on Friday night in a Region 6-AA showdown between top-10 teams.
It was anybody's contest at the half with top-ranked Buford holding a slim 7-0 lead, but the Buford running attack exploded in the second half to pull away for the Wolves' 19th win in a row.
"We had to earn it tonight," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "We needed something like this. We hadn't faced a lot of adversity this year and this was good for us because I don't want us to get into week 12 or 13 and not having had a game like this."
Buford running back Andre Johnson, who had just three carries for 13 yards in the first half, put the team on his back in the second half and finished with 178 yards on 11 carries and two TDs.
Both of his scores came in the third quarter on runs of 12 and 59 yards during a period when Buford (6-0) took control of the game.
"I was excited with how we ran the ball but I was more proud of our offensive line and our fullbacks," Simpson said. "We needed to ground and pound."
Darrian Smith added 84 yards on nine carries and a TD for Buford, while Dontravious Wilson chipped in with 75 yards on seven attempts with a TD. The Wolves finished with 434 yards on the ground on 46 rushes.
"That's what (Buford) has done since I've been playing these guys," Lovett head coach Mike Muschamp said. "They just wear you down physically and that's what they did tonight. They just grind you up."
That running attack was never more evident than it was in the second half when all of Buford's offensive plays were running plays.
But the win didn't come easy as Lovett (3-1) was able to hang tough in the first half, giving up just one TD on a 27-yard run by Smith.
Buford also had to deal with 10 penalties in the first half for 75 yards. The flags kept coming in the second half, as well, with the Wolves finishing with 19 infractions for 170 yards.
The second half provided drastically different results as the Wolves took the opening possession of the third and went 73 yards on seven plays, ending when Johnson bulled in from 12 yards out.
The defense, which held Lovett to just 76 total yards, forced a Lion punt and Buford went on the march again, this time covering 59 yards on four plays. Johnson scored his second TD of the night to end the drive, ending it with a 59-yard run after the Wolves had been pushed back to its 41 after a holding penalty.
Lovett took the ensuing possession and went nowhere with a three-and-out, giving the ball back to Buford for the third time in the quarter.
This possession went 67 yards on five plays, getting help from Wilson with five carries on the drive for 53 yards, while Nathan Staub ended it with a 14-yard TD run up the middle. David Petroni, who was perfect on all five PATS, struck the extra point home for a 28-0 lead.
Lovett answered early in the fourth when quarterback Willie Candler escaped a Buford blitz and scrambled 28 yards for a TD, but the Wolves came right back and quelled any hopes of a Lion comeback when Wilson scored on an 11-yard run to end a six-play, 65-yard drive.
"Our kids will battle you and we played our rear ends off tonight," Muschamp said. "We just can't match up with (Buford) because they are too deep and too strong. That's Buford football."