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HAMMOCK: Veteran coordinators lead to defensive day at Dome

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford's Juan Ayala, left, and teammate Deion King (8) celebrate after defeating St. Pius X 10-3 during Class AAA state championship high school football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford's Juan Ayala, left, and teammate Deion King (8) celebrate after defeating St. Pius X 10-3 during Class AAA state championship high school football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford Korie Rogers (43) takes down St. Pius X quarterback Jack Spear (10) during Class AAA state championship high school football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford Thomas Wilson (21) makes the tackle by pulling the jersey of St. Pius X Branden Mitchell (4) during Class AAA state championship high school football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford's Dillon Streeter (27), Alan Frazier (70), Cooper Simpson (63) and Connor Tarleton (31) explode off the bench after defeating St. Pius X 10-3 during Class AAA state championship high school football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Buford student Wick Nalley, center, cheers on the Wolves as they face St. Pius X during Class AAA state championship high school football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday.

ATLANTA -- I expected a defensive stalemate in Friday night's Class AAA state championship football game, but I'm hardly a genius.

Ask nearly every football coach in Gwinnett County, whether they had seen Buford or St. Pius this season or not, and they would likely offer the same prediction because they know the two teams' defensive coordinators so well.

Buford's Dicky May and St. Pius' Jerry Stewart, two of the best coordinators in Georgia, were at their best Friday as the Wolves squeaked out a 10-3 victory for their fifth state title in six seasons.

When Dontravious Wilson scored a game-winning, 39-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, it was the only time in the game that either team penetrated past the other's 20-yard line.

"Jerry's an old hat and so is Dicky," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "They know what they're doing and I think people around the state think a lot of them. They're special people and special coaches. Football's in their blood. They've been doing it the right way for a long time."

May's unit finished the season on a remarkable playoff run, holding St. Pius to three points, Cartersville to 10 and Carver-Columbus to seven. None of the three topped the 200-yard mark. St. Pius gained just 184.

The Wolves showed the necessary discipline to stop St. Pius' potent option attack, which put 31 on North Hall in the semifinals, and then racked up five sacks (two by Mikey Bart) when the Golden Lions were forced to pass late.

Bryson Jordan and Deion King had a team-high eight tackles each, Korie Rogers had five tackles (one a big fourth-and-short stop) and Thomas Wilson added five stops (two for losses).

"Coach May's outstanding," Rogers said. "He knows what they're going to run every play."

Gwinnett coaches have been trying to solve May's defenses for years. He coached first at his alma mater, Central Gwinnett, and also was Dacula's defensive coordinator before joining Buford.

He was quick to deflect the credit Saturday night, praising his players and fellow coaches.

"First of all, they had a great week of practice," May said. "All of the guys did a great job preparing and the kids believed in it."

On the opposing sideline was Stewart, with his trademark reading classes pulled down low. His long tenure in coaching includes stops at Shiloh and Parkview, where he orchestrated the defense for four state championship teams.

For the past decade, he's helped Paul Standard return the St. Pius football program to state prominence.

"(Stewart's) one of the best," May said. "I remember being a young coach and hearing his name, watching his (defensive) tapes. He does a great job. And he did a great job tonight."

When it got late, both defenses did their jobs. Buford got a stop, St. Pius answered with a three-and-out that gave it a shot at a game-tying score and then the Wolves sealed the championship with another stop.

Buford gained only 178 yards against Stewart's defense. Of those, 39 came on Wilson's game-winning TD.

Outside of that, the two veteran defensive coordinators battled to a 3-3 deadlock on 43- and 47-yard field goals.

Not that it was terribly shocking to anyone.

"Not surprising at all," Standard said. "Buford's got a great defense and we've got a great defense. They just happened to make a play."

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His regular column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.