Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Buford's Jaylen Mize (4), Dontravious Wilson (1) , Garrett Roebuck (72), Josh Cardiello (56) and Mikey Bart (44) celebrate with the Class AAA state championship trophy.
ATLANTA -- The dynasty that Buford has built over the last 12 seasons was enhanced with the Wolves' 10-3 victory over St. Pius X in the Class AAA state championship game Friday at the Georgia Dome.
But the Wolves' dominance goes beyond even their fifth state title in the last six years and eighth in the last 11 years over three different classifications.
Simply put, Buford is used to playing on the final weekend of the season.
Friday's win marked the sixth straight year the Wolves had appeared in the 15th and final week of their classification's season and the 11th time in the last 13 seasons. That's 90 games they've played in the past six seasons.
And the only two seasons that Buford had made an early exit came after the Wolves had advanced to the state quarterfinals in Week 13.
Motivation from tragedy
A tough year for the Buford community took an emotional toll on the Wolves' players and coaches, too.
Since January, they had to deal with loads of pain from the deaths of beloved coach and Buford grad Ryan Daniel, student Adam Smith and Buford grad Devin Durden. The heartbreak also served as motivation for the Wolves, who paid tribute to their fallen friends all season long.
Their helmets featured "AS," "74" and "46" decals --Daniel wore the No. 74 jersey as a Buford player and Durden wore 46. Small signs scattered the Wolves' locker room walls Friday with the following message, accompanied by photos of the Daniel, Durden and Smith --PLAY FOR SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF!!!"
"It's hard to imagine what all these kids have been through," Buford defensive coordinator Dicky May said. "But they kept on and kept on and kept on. That really shows the character of these kids."
Wilson leads St. Pius' defense
The top tackler on St. Pius' defense was a Gwinnett County guy.
Sophomore linebacker Dalton Wilson, a Norcross resident, made a game-high nine tackles and had a sack. He made a big tackle on third-and-short late in the fourth quarter that kept Buford from running out the clock and gave his team one last chance at a tying score.
The Golden Lions had 21 Gwinnett residents on their roster.
Cousin vs. cousin
The finals matchup brought one family against each other --cousins Montgomery VanGorder of Buford and Quincy Nieporte of St. Pius.
VanGorder earned the bragging rights with the victory, though he wasn't used much as the Wolves went with a run-heavy attack. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 32 yards.
Though he lost, Nieporte was a big factor for the St. Pius defense. He had five tackles and caused a fumble.
Two of the game's stars were the two players who put up the game's only points until Buford's fourth-quarter TD --kickers Matt Bonadies of Buford and Thomas O'Leary of St. Pius.
Bonadies hit a 43-yard field goal just before halftime to put the Wolves up 3-0 and O'Leary answered with a 47-yarder to equal the score in the second half.
Staff writer David Friedlander contributed to this report.