It’s arguably impressive for a a defense to shutout a team once over the course of the season. The No. 2-ranked Buford football program under head coach John Ford continues to rewrite the definition of impressive.
Buford hasn’t allowed an opposing team to score in more than one month. Since Oct. 6 against Johnson (Gainesville), the Wolves have outscored opponents 224-0. The Wolves allowed one touchdown against a region opponent in its 45-7 win over Clarke Central on Sept. 29.
Ford gave some of the credit to the efforts of defensive coordinator Bryant Appling, a holdover from Jess Simpson’s previous coaching staff, and his defensive personnel. Appling has been a staple of Buford’s coaching staff, starting as an assistant to Dexter Wood during the height of Buford’s Class AA power in the mid 2000s.
Ford expressed gratitude for the coaches and players he’s inherited in his first season as head coach of the Buford football program since being hired from Class AAAAAAA runner up Roswell earlier this year. As for his defense’s success this season, he said the Wolves have been executing well as a unit.
“The expectation is excellent habits, enthusiasm in preparation and stay married to the system,” Ford said. “They play team defense and swarm on the ball. The coaches have done a really good job.”
Ford emphasized that his team’s remarkable defensive feat is a culmination of the balance and combined prowess of all 11 of the players on the Wolves’ defense, and that was reflected statistically in last week’s game against Loganville. Defensive backs K.J. Johnson and Elijah Turner had three tackles apiece, as did defensive end Ahmad Craig. Bryson Richardson led the Wolves’ secondary with four tackles.
As a team, Buford has held opposing teams to fewer than 3 yards per rush. Buford’s defense may bend but won’t break, allowing a total of 24 “explosive plays” (runs of more than 15 yards and passes of more than 20 yards) all season.
Buford is no slouch on offense either. Buford is averaging 47.25 points per game — nearly one point per minute — good for 10th-best in GHSA this season.
Last week, the Wolves racked up 319 yards rushing by divvying the workload between running backs Anthony Grant (12 carries, 100 yards, 2 TDs), Christian Turner (10 carries, 78 yards, 3 TDs) and Derrian Brown (five carries, 98 yards, 1 TD). Grant is also the Wolves’ leading tackler as a linebacker, with 25 solo tackles and six tackles for loss this season. The 5-foot-11, 200 pound senior is currently committed to University of Tennessee.
Flowery Branch is in its first season under head coach Ben Hall, who led Class AAAA Jefferson to the state playoffs in each of his four seasons, including the semifinals last season.
Flowery Branch — ranked No. 9 in Class AAAAA according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s poll — has a pair of impressive wins, edging region rival Cedar Shoals 35-21 on Sept. 29 and dominating Clarke Central in the second half for a 32-14 win. Its lone loss is to Hall’s old program 35-29 on Sept. 15. It’s one of two games the Falcons have allowed more than 14 points to an opponent, including a 35-21 win against Cedar Shoals.
There are also added stakes in Friday’s contest. Buford’s game against Flowery Branch is for the Region 8-AAAAA title. A win Friday night would cement Buford’s fifth consecutive region title, its 15th since 2001. Flowery Branch won back-to-back Region 8-AAAA titles in 2011 and 2012, spanning the transitions between the program’s first head coach Lee Shaw, and Chris Griffin, who resigned as head coach at the conclusion of last season.
The Wolves’ lone loss is to the No. 1-ranked team from South Carolina, South Pointe. A region title for the Wolves would make bring their total to 15 in the last 17 years. Buford’s focus is taking care of its opponent to conclude the regular season on a high note before gearing up to make a run to the state title game for the 11th consecutive season.
“Just trying to be one day better,” Ford said. “We can’t worry about anything when you have a Tuesday practice, and Flowery Branch Friday.”
Buford Wolves (Region 8-AAAAA)
Coach: John Ford
Record: 7-1, 5-0
Last week: Beat Loganville 49-0
Flowery Branch Falcons (Region 8-AAAAA)
Coach: Ben Hall
Record: 8-1, 5-0
Last week: Had a bye
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Buford won 49-13 last year
Location: Flowery Branch High School