Photo: David McGregor Buford's Mikey Bart (44) tackles a West Hall ball carrier during a game earlier this season.
FANNIN COUNTY AT BUFORD
Fannin County Rebels (7-AAA)
Coach: Greg Chambers
Record: 1-6, 1-3 region
Last week: Lost to Banks County 47-46
Buford Wolves (7-AAA)
Coach: Jess Simpson
Record: 4-3, 2-2 region
Last week: Beat Dawson County 34-3
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
Directions to Buford High School: I-985 north to Ga. Highway 20 exit, turn left. Turn right on Buford Highway to Robert Bell Parkway and turn left.
Through no fault of theirs, the Buford football players and coaches were hit with crushing news this week.
A clerical error forced the Wolves to forfeit victories over Banks County and West Hall, essentially eliminating their chance at the Region 7-AAA championship and dropping them into a pack of teams with 2-2 region records.
Instead of building toward a region title with a perfect record, Buford will be fighting for playoff seeding the final three weeks. That Nov. 9 game with fellow unbeaten North Hall, the one that was supposed to decide the region title, won't have quite the same meaning -- North Hall likely will have the region crown wrapped up by then.
The situation forced the Wolves, their mettle already tested three times this year by the death of a beloved coach and two other youngsters from Buford in three unrelated events, to bounce back this week yet again.
"It's another punch in the gut," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "There's always a sense of urgency in the last three games, but certainly this situation and where we stand, it's probably even more urgent. It is what it is."
The best remedy for Simpson, his coaches and players comes tonight, when they can get back on the field for a game. Up next is heavy underdog Fannin County, a one-win team coming off a wild, 47-46 loss to Banks County.
To put the matchup in perspective, Buford beat that same Banks County team 63-0 before it was forfeited because an ineligible player was used for a few inconsequential plays late in that blowout and a similar lopsided win over West Hall.
Buford hopes it can keep the momentum on the field going at home against Fannin and the following week at East Hall. Win those two, and it has a good shot for a No. 2 seed entering the regular-season finale vs. East Hall, also a home game.
"The last four weeks, we've been a good football team, a football team that has improved," Simpson said. "Our arrow's pointing up. We've been playing really well. We're playing really solid on defense, really solid in the kicking game and our offense is getting better each week."
Simpson said the offensive improvements include much better play from a revamped line, one that has used eight or nine combinations and relies heavily on some sophomores. Their play has led to some big games from running back Dontravious Wilson, who had 143 yards and a score on 17 carries last week against Dawson County.
Mikey Bart (six quarterback pressures) and Korie Rogers (four tackles, two sacks, two QB pressures, one interception, one pass breakup) were among the defensive standouts vs. Dawson, while Thomas Wilson contributed a 65-yard punt return touchdown, three tackles and five pass breakups.