Tuesday May 31st, 2016 8:24AM

Buford looks to avoid Carver-Columbus 'payback'

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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BUFORD -- You know Carver, Columbus has been waiting for this almost exactly one year to the day.

When last the Tigers saw Buford, they watched a sea of green and gold march off the Memorial Stadium turf with a ticket punched to the Class AA state title game.

However, as the two teams prepare for Friday's Class AAA quarterfinal showdown at Memorial Stadium once again, Carver coach Dell McGee says they have put any thoughts of payback out of their minds.

"I don't know if anybody is thinking about that," McGee said. "Both teams are different from last year. I know our older guys may remember it more but really it's just the next game for us this year."

That may be, but the Wolves (9-3) own a 2-1 overall record against the Tigers (11-1) including a pair of wins last season, one at Tom Riden Stadium in Buford and the other in Columbus. It is the fourth meeting between the two powerhouse programs in just under two calendar years.

"It's really more about matchups and they are a tough matchup for anybody," McGee said about Buford. "They were loaded last year and we just felt good to be at the same level they were. They are the measuring stick in Georgia."

Buford coach Jess Simpson, who is good friends with McGee from their days together at Auburn, isn't buying into McGee's peaceful approach.

"Oh, I'm sure they want a little payback, especially after last year," Simpson said. "They are physical and have a dominant offensive line and defense. This will be our biggest test of the year in (Class) AAA."

The key matchup to watch will be the Carver offense against the Wolves defense. The Tigers, who have won nine straight, are averaging over 39 points during that span and more than 43 in the playoffs so far. The Buford defense, however, has allowed just 7.3 points a game on the season, including a shutout of North Oconee last week.

Carver has four runners with 500 or more yards on the season who have combined for 33 rushing touchdowns in 12 games. Seniors Danny Ryles (677 yards, 9 TDs) and Brandon Thomas (627, 7 TDs) lead the group. Sophomore Mario Moore has 588 yards and seven touchdowns.

But the Tigers' offense will run through junior quarterback Torrance McGee, no relation, who has 518 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing. He also has thrown for 1,183 yards and 17 TDs with just three interceptions.

"We have to be able to stop or at least slow down their run game or it's going to be a long night," Simpson said. "Their quarterback is one of the best we've seen."

The Wolves may have already gotten a good look at the Tigers offense in their first round win over Cedar Grove, which runs a similar style to Carver. And, Cedar Grove managed to put up 27 points against the Wolves, the most of any team this season.

"They were solid and we saw some things we need to improve on, but they run a lot of things similar to Carver so the kids got a good look at that," Simpson said. "The problem is that Carver is better than Cedar Grove with the same offense. It will be a huge challenge for our defense. But we like it that way."

The Buford offense struggled against a tough North Oconee defense that ran multiple looks at the Wolves. Simpson said they must improve against Carver.

"(North Oconee) did some different things. We'll see more tradional things against Carver so it really will just come down to execution," Simpson said. "Carver has a huge front seven on defense so doing the little things and not missing blocks will be a big key to the game."

The winner will move on to play the Cartersville-Thomson winner next week in the semifinals. The Wolves are looking for their sixth straight trip to the semifinal round. Carver has advanced to the semifinal round five of the last six seasons. Both coaches said their teams know what's at stake.

"Buford is the team everyone shoots for and we know they'll be ready," McGee said. "Our goal is to win the state title and we knew we would have to play Buford at some point to win it. The kids are looking forward to it and are ready to go."

"Our goal every year is to win (the title) and right now Carver is our next obstacle," Simpson said. "They'll be ready for us I'm sure so we'll have to play our best game of the year. But we're excited about the challenge and I think the kids will rise up to meet it."

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Columbus
-- RADIO: 550 AM
-- BUFORD (9-3, No. 2 seed Region 7-AAA): Defeated North Oconee 13-0 in the second round.
-- CARVER (11-1, No. 1 seed Region 2-AAA): Defeated Rockmart 45-16 in the second round.
-- HISTORY: Buford won the last meeting between the two teams, 28-13 in the 2011 Class AA semifinals. The Wolves lead the series 2-1.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Cartersville vs. Thomson winner in the semifinals.
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