BUFORD, Ga. — Against Buford High, one of the best football teams in the state of Georgia and winners of five state championships in the past six years, the one thing teams can’t do is fall behind early.
Carver did, and that’s why it lost 36-6 to the Wolves on Friday in the state quarterfinals.
The loss ended the season for Carver (11-2), while Buford (13-0) advances to the state semifinals for the seventh consecutive season. It will face the winner of Callaway and St. Pius X next Friday.
Carver coach Joe Kegler said his team had nothing to hang its head about.
“They showed great heart,” Kegler said. “They didn’t give up no matter what. I told them they had nothing to hang their heads about. It was a great season.”
A safety and two early turnovers put the Tigers behind the eight ball early, trailing 22-0 after the first quarter. And though the defense was able to limit the Wolves’ offensive attack for most of the game, the Tigers offense was unable to gain enough traction to come back from the sizeable deficit.
“The past two seasons we played Carver, we went into the half trailing, I think,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said after the game. “We made it a point and we told our guys all week that we wanted to start fast, and we did.”
Carver fell behind after a quick three-and-out when the snap on the ensuing punt attempt sailed out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Buford returned the free kick to the Carver 35-yard line, but could go only 23 yards before settling for a field goal. Another quick three-and-out for the Tigers, followed by a short punt set Buford up at the Carver 30. Again, Carver’s defense held tight and forced Buford to kick a field goal.
The next two Carver drives ended in turnovers, though—an interception and a fumble—and Buford was able to capitalize. Thomas Wilson started the drive with a 35-yard run to set Buford up in the red zone at the 15-yard line. Taylor Mitchell, one of the team’s “starting” quarterbacks, finished the scoring drive with an 11-yard run to pay dirt.
Carver fumbled the first play of its ensuing possession, and Evyn Cooper trotted in for an 8-yard score and a 22-0 lead.
Even though it allowed the two short touchdown drives, the Carver defense imposed its will on Buford for much of the night, something few teams have been able to do all year. It forced four turnovers, three of which came in the second quarter, but the Tigers offense was stymied by Buford all day long. The Tigers capitalized on just one of the turnovers, an interception by Khane Pass, with a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Jawon Pass. Pass set up his own run with a 25-yard pass to Dreilon Freeman. That was the only Carver score of the game.
“They just do a great job playing assignment football,” Kegler said of Buford’s defense, which limited Carver to 46 total yards and minus-3 on the ground. “They’re fast and were able to limit what we did on the ground.”
Simpson credited his defense’s pass rush and the ability to eliminate the run game. Carver failed to gain more than 4 yards on a single running play all night.
Carver also turned the ball over four times, eliminating the advantage of the four takeaways by the defense.
Buford added two fourth-quarter scores to end any hopes of a Carver comeback. Wilson ran for a 16-yard touchdown and Mitchell hit Tyler Shipman for a 36-yard touchdown. Buford gained only 289 yards of offense against the Carver defense.
Friday at Buford
Carver 0 6 0 0—0
Buford 22 0 0 14—36
B—Matthew Bonadies 29 field goal; 7:20
B—Bonadies 34 field goal; 3:30
B—Taylor Mitchell 11 run (Bonadies); 1:06
B—Evyn Cooper 8 run (Bonadies); :37
C—Jawon Pass 6 run (kick failed); 2:56
B—Thomas Wilson 16 run (Bonadies); 11:55
B—Tyler Shipman 36 pass from Mitchell (Bonadies); 9:07
Records: Carver, 11-2; Buford, 13-0. Next: Carver, season over; Buford, Friday vs. Callaway/St. Pius X.