BUFORD -- Anyone wondering just how good the Buford defense REALLY is found out Friday night.
The Wolves defense forced two early turnovers that led to scores and held Carver, Columbus to just 48 total yards and six first downs in taking a 36-6 win at Tom Riden Stadium in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA playoffs.
Half of the Tigers' first downs came via penalties on Buford and 25 of the yards came on an acrobatic pass play to set up their only score in the second quarter.
Buford coach Jess Simpson has almost run out of superlatives to describe his defense.
"What can you say, really," he said. "I am so proud of their effort against a great offensive team with a lot of weapons. To hold those guys down is something."
Buford (13-0) held Carver to minus-9 yards rushing for the game and yielded just 57 yards passing from sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass. The Wolves defense came into the game allowing just under 135 yards and just 6.o points a contest.
The win moves Buford into the semifinals for the seventh consecutive season and for the 12th time in the last of 14 years. The Wolves will take on Callaway in the semifinals but a coin flip will have to decide who gets homefield. The Cavaliers (12-1) knocked off St. Pius 35-21 Friday in the quarterfinals.
It would be a night Buford would need its defense more than ever as the offense had uncharacteristic four turnovers (three fumbles, one interception). What would normally be a disaster for most teams -- a three-turnover quarter -- was practically brushed aside by the Wolves defense as Carver was able to manage just six points in the second quarter despite starting three drives on the Buford side of the field.
"The guys just really got after it whenever their backs were against it," Simpson said. "The offense doesn't usually have a game like that but it's going to happen every now and then, it's football. Carver is a hard-hitting team.
"But what I was most proud of was how we only allowed the one score. (The defense) played outstanding."
Both defenses came out inspired and set the tone to start the game. The Wolves forced a quick three-and-out and then the Carver special teams made the first mistake when the fourth down punt snap sailed over the head of Raekwon Lowe and out of the end zone for a safety just 1:20 into the game.
The Buford special teams would answer as Thomas Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to the Carver 36. But the Carver defense would hold the Wolves and force a 30-yard field goal from Matt Bonadies for a 5-0 lead.
The Wolves would force another quick three-and-out on Carver's next possession and a 10-yard punt would give Buford the ball at the Tigers' 30. But the Tigers would hold again and force a 39-yard Bonadies field goal for an 8-0 lead with 3:30 left in the half.
The Buford defense would make the next big play when David Curry intercepted a Jewon Pass pass at the 50. Wilson would scamper 35 yards on the next play and Taylor Mitchell would cap the quick four-play drive with a 10-yard TD run for a 15-0 lead just 42 seconds later.
Carver's next mistake came on its next play when Pass mishandled the snap and Buford recovered at the Tigers' 19. Two plays later Evyn Cooper made it 22-0 on a 6-yard TD run with 37 seconds left in the first quarter.
Wilson would finish with 106 yards on 17 carries to to lead Buford. The Wolves piled up 216 yard rushing as a team while Taylor Mitchell would go 3-for-6 for 52 yards and one touchdown passing.
But as dominating as the first quarter was for the Wolves, the Buford defense was forced to spend most of the second quarter in its own territory.
After a Buford fumble, the Tigers drove to the Buford 30 but a penalty and then a Donte Gordon sack forced a punt on 4th-and-32 from the Carver 48.
Another Buford fumble would give Carver the ball at the Wolves' 12. But Korie Rogers would sack Pass on third down at the Wolves' 23 and then an incomplete pass on fourth down snuffed out a potential scoring opportunity.
The third time would be the charm for the Tigers. An interception and return by Khane Pass gave them the ball at the Buford 31. A 25-yard pass from Pass to Dreilon Freeman to the Buford 6 would set up a 1-yard TD run by Jawon Pass to cut the lead to 22-6 by halftime.
In the second half, both defenses picked up right where they left off. Neither offense could mount a drive as they traded one turnover each and two punts. But the Wolves would capitalize on a Tigers' fumble at the Carver 38 when Wilson scored on a 16-yard run around the left end for a 29-6 lead.
The Buford defense would allow just two first downs, both on penalties, in the second half. They would force a short punt early in the fourth quarter and the offense would cap the drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to Tyler Shipman with 9:07 left to put the game out of reach, 36-6.
Buford would stop the Tigers twice on downs in the fourth quarter and the Buford offense would run out the final four minutes to seal the win.
Carver......0....6....0.....0 -- 6
Buford....22....0....0...14 -- 36
BUF -- Safety on bad snap 2-0, 10:40
BUF -- Bonadies 30 FG 5-0, 7:40
BUF -- Bonadies 39 FG 8-0, 3:30
BUF -- Mitchell 10 run (Bonadies kick) 15-0, 1:06
BUF -- Cooper 7 run (Bonadies kick) 22-0, 0:37
CAR -- Pass 1 run (kick failed) 22-6, 2:46
BUF -- Wilson 16 run (Bonadies kick) 29-6, 11:55
BUF -- Shipman 23 pass from Mitchell (Bonadies kick) 36-6, 9:07