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Buford's 43-game home winning streak stopped by Gainesville

BUFORD -- For a while, it looked like Buford might pull off an escape act that Harry Houdini would've been proud of in its game with Gainesville on Friday.

But in the end, the Wolves couldn't lock up Deshaun Watson.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior posted 296 yards of total offense and threw three touchdown passes -- two to Jay Gaudlock -- including one with 7:51 to play that helped the Red Elephants come away with a 19-15 win Friday night.

The Wolves (1-1, ranked No. 2 in Class AAA) saw their home winning streak snapped at 43 games by suffering their first loss at Tom Riden Stadium since the 2006 Class AA state quarterfinals, a 26-7 loss to Charlton County.

But they didn't go down without a fight, as they stayed in the game by creating five turnovers, including four interceptions of Watson, plus a fumble recovery.

"We just kept hanging in there," Buford coach Jess Simpson said afterwards. "It just seemed like our backs were against the wall. The bottom line is, we just got beat by a better team (Friday) night."

As much resiliency as Buford showed throughout the evening, Watson and the Red Devils (1-1, ranked No. 9 in Class AAAAA) showed even more.

That was especially true after the Wolves improbably claimed a 19-15 lead on Taylor Mitchell's 53-yard scoring strike to Tre' Neal, plus a two-point conversion completion to Mikey Bart, with 9:20 to play.

"We just kept on fighting," said Watson, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 189 yards, and ran for 107 more yards on 21 carries. "Once (Buford) scored, that fired us up."

And it didn't take long for the Red Elephants to rumble right back, as Tray Harrison fielded the ensuing kickoff on his own 1-yard line and sped through the seem 65 yards before being dragged down at the Buford 34.

Faced with third and 7 just four plays later, Watson faded back and, under heavy pressure, lofted a strike to Gaudlock for a 21-yard touchdown, vaulting Gainesville back into the lead at 19-15 with 7:51 remaining.

Still, Buford had a chance, even after punting the ball away with 5:31 to play.

But pinned back to their own 4, the pressure Watson and the Red Elephants' no-huddle offense had put on the Wolves' defense all evening began to take its toll.

"Our whole offense is based on the spread and (designed at a) fast pace to get (defenses) tired," Watson said.

Key first down conversions on a 2-yard run by Michael Byrd and gutsy completions by Watson of 12 yards to Lahius Leverett and 19 yards to Rodney Lackey made Buford exhaust is remaining two timeouts.

And the Wolves could only watch as Watson knelt to let the final seconds tick away and hand Buford just its fourth last in the last 62 games.

Buford actualy controlled most of the first quarter, and got on the board first by taking advantage of a Watson pass that deflected off his intended receiver and into the hands of Korie Rogers, setting Buford up at the Gainesville 25.

Seven plays later, Zavior Hoxie dove in from 2 yards out to give the Wolves a 7-0 lead with 1:16 left in the opening frame.

But the second quarter belonged to the Red Elephants, who ran 28 offensive plays to Buford's 10.

Watson, ran for 85 yards and threw for 94, including a pair of scoring strikes, in the quarter.

The first TD pass came on a 6-yard dump off to Gaudlock that cut the Buford lead to 7-6 with 5:30 left in the first half after the extra point went low and was blocked at the line.

The second came with a bit of good fortune, as Watson heaved up a pass under heavy pressure that looked like it would be interception.

But the ball bounced off the hands of the Buford defender and into the hands of Lackey, who tightroped the back line of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown with 8 seconds left in the half, and sent Gainesville into intermission with a 12-7 lead after the two-point conversion failed.

It could've been even worse if not for three turnovers caused by the Wolves' defense -- interceptions by Rogers and Thomas Wilson and a fumble recovery by Joshua Thomas.