Monday October 23rd, 2017 9:22AM

Buford, North Hall ready to settle things on the field in 7-AAA showdown (Video)

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Trying to compare what Buford and North Hall football have done to the rest of Region 7-AAA this season is a bit like arguing over who was the better Heisman Trophy winner.

Both teams have dominated region play in 2012 -- like so many Herschel Walkers and Tim Tebows dominated their own collegiate competition.

Lucky for us, these two behemoths actually get to settle their debate on the field on Friday.

The only drawback is that there will be no region title up for grabs when the ninth-ranked Trojans (8-1, 6-0 Region 7-AAA) travel to face the third-ranked Wolves (6-3, 4-2) at Tom Riden Stadium -- in a game that will be broadcast live on WDUN AM 550.

Earlier this week, Access North Georgia.com sports editor Morgan Lee caught up with members of the Buford and North Hall football teams to talk about Friday's key showdown. To watch a feature on the contest, simply click "play" below.

Preview: Buford vs North Hall from WDUN TV on Vimeo.

Buford's forfeiture of two lopsided region victories due to briefly fielding an ineligible player will keep the Wolves from challenging North Hall for the 7-AAA crown. Just don't expect that to change anything about the game on the field come Friday. And while Buford's players admit disappointment at not being able to play for a league title, they are still plenty hungry to show what they can do against North Hall -- which claimed the 7-AAA championship last week (the program's first region title since 2007).

"A lot of guys from other schools were asking us if we were mad about the forfeits but after that happened we actually held a team meeting and were talking about how that will give us an opportunity to go out and play some road playoff games," Wolves defensive back/receiver Jaylen Mize said. "We're excited about this. We've bounced back from a lot of adversity this year."

Indeed, Buford has battled through multiple injuries and far worse than forfeits over the past year, including the deaths of assistant coach Ryan Daniel and former player Devin Durden, as well as 16-year-old basketball player Adam Smith.

"The whole Buford community is closer than ever right now, and the football team is just part of that community," Wolves junior linebacker/fullback Deione Bledson said. "We want to play hard for them."

Buford has impressed throughout the 2012 campaign but has downright dominated in 7-AAA, winning games by an average margin of 47.3 points per game.

North Hall isn't far behind, however, notching region victories by an average of 42 points. And, after leading the program back to a region crown and storming into the state playoffs after a two-year absence, the Trojans are eager to show that they can make more than an impression against a Buford team that has won seven state titles since 2001.

"We feel like we're even with them this year," Trojans offensive lineman Avery Easton said. "We know it's going to be a tough game down there, but we feel like we can play with anyone right now."

Easton and his fellow linemen will be at the heart of the showdown this week, as both teams like to control the line of scrimmage and clear the path for their dominating run games.

The Trojans' re-vamped offense, which now attacks out of the wishbone, is averaging 368.3 rushing yards per game -- spread out between five backs (including two quarterbacks) with over 400 rushing yards apiece. Kevin Christmas paces the group with 677 yards (and 6 TDs), while TJ Tate has 632 yards and a team-high 11 scores to his name. Zac Little has also rushed for 490 yards and 7 TDs, while starting quarterback Bradley Brown is third with 592 yards and 10 rushing TDs. Back-up signal caller Andrew Smith, who also takes significant snaps has 440 yards and 7 rushing scores.

The Trojans face a Buford defense that is allowing just 92.6 yards rushing and 5 points per game.

North Hall's defense has also been plenty stout, yielding just 96.9 rushing yards and 11.6 points per game. They will battle a multiple-I Wolves offense that is rushing for 285 yards and passing for 110.2 per game -- quarterbacks Taylor Mitchell (485 yards passing, 4 TDs) and Montgomery VanGorder (488 yards, 6 TDs) are combining to keep opposing defenses off balance.

Something's got to give.

Buford will be missing leading rusher Dontravious Wilson for the contest. The senior, who has rushed for 866 yards and 12 TDs, is out due to a knee injury -- he also missed the Gainesville game earlier this season. The Wolves' second leading rusher is Zavior Hoxie with 466 yards and 5 scores.

"For the guys, it's just like, who's the next one to step up," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "That's the kind of year it's been with injuries, and the guys have just rolled through it. It's been brilliant to see how they've handled things."

The Trojans certainly expect Buford's best shot on Friday, and North Hall -- which battled injury woes for much of the 2010 and '11 seasons -- knows that the Wolves will be motivated for the contest.

"I think it's going to be a dogfight," Tate said. "We just have to keep hitting them in the mouth every play and see what happens from there."

North Hall also knows it would only add to their burgeoning confidence to claim a victory at Buford -- especially at the dawn of the state playoffs, which begin the following Friday (Nov. 16).

"We've won the region on paper; now we've got to go win it on the field," Kevin Christmas said. "If you can beat Buford that makes a huge statement to the rest of the state."

It's safe to say that much of the state will have at least one eye on what happens on Friday night at Tom Riden Stadium -- as two greats look to settle a very intriguing argument.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- RADIO: 550 AM
-- NORTH HALL (8-1, 6-0 Region 7-AAA): Defeated Banks County 42-7 last week. The Trojans are ranked No. 9 in Class AAA.
-- BUFORD (6-3, 4-2 Region 7-AAA): Defeated East Hall 49-6 last week. The Wolves are ranked No. 3 in Class AAA.
-- HISTORY: Buford won the last meeting 35-7 in 2009. The Wolves lead the series 6-1-1.
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