BUFORD -- What qualities go into the making of a great defense?
Is it purely stats? Is it clutch performances? Is it by reputation with a large dose of intimidation added in?
Is it all of the above?
The 2013 version of the Wolves defense certainly has most, if not all, of those qualities. It has allowed just 6.0 ppg on the season with four shutouts and opposing teams know going into games that points, and yards, will be hard to come by.
Current players on the 2013 defense have stated to coaches and those who will listen that their goal is to be the best in school history. They made a strong statement last week in one of the most dominating playoff performances in recent memory against a potent Carver (Columbus) offense.
The Wolves gave up just 48 total yards, with 25 coming on a long pass play that set up the Tigers' only score in a 36-6 Buford beatdown.
"We feel like no one should score on us," senior Thomas Wilson said after Buford's 40-7 win over Woodward Academy in the second round. Wilson's fumble return for a touchdown set the tone early and helped break that game open. "Our No. 1 group, we feel like we could be the best ever at Buford and we try to go out and show that every week."
Standout middle linebacker Korie Rogers -- a Clemson commit that leads the Wolves with 70 tackles -- echoes that sentiment and says the Wolves' dynamic mix of speed and strength has mixed with a coachable nature to produce something special.
"I think this is one of the best defenses perhaps to come through Buford which is saying a lot," said Rogers of a unit that is yielding less than 129 yards per game and just 1.7 yards per rush attempt. "We have a lot of speed on the edges and at the same time we have power with our line and linebackers, and I feel like our players are dedicated and listening to what the coaches are saying and buying in, and that's going to get us going in the right direction."
Buford will get another chance to try and make its case when it takes on Region 4-AAA champ Callaway Friday at Tom Riden Stadium in the Class AAA semifinals.
Callaway has put up some big offensive numbers in the playoffs averaging 48.6 ppg in the first three rounds. They have posted 35 or more points in nine of their last 10 games, and 45 or more seven times this season.
By comparison, however, the 2013 Buford defense does not pack quite the statistical punch of the 2007 team, which posted seven shutouts in 15 games and allowed a miniscule 4.2 ppg, including back-to-back shutouts in the semifinal and championship games that year.
Buford coach Jess Simpson, who guided the 2007 team to the state title, said during this year's playoffs that it is hard to compare teams. But....
"This group is a good one. They could hold their own with anybody," he said after the win over Carver. "They've told (the coaches) they want to be the best ever at Buford. Are they? I don't know yet. Legacies are built in the playoffs. We'll see how things finish."
The No. 1 group has yielded just two touchdowns all season -- one to defending Class AAAAA state champion Gainesville in a 38-14 win in the second game of the season, and the other last week to Carver on a score that came after a Buford turnover gave the Tigers a short field.
Gainesville coach Bruce Miller hated to even venture about which defense was better.
"They were both tough," he said."That early group had a lot of D-I guys and they played like it. This year's group, however, is every bit as physical as that one. They stack up overall to that (2007) group. But I don't think there is a way to try to figure out which was better."
The Red Elephants found out on the first play of the game just what they were in for. Deshaun Watson took a shotgun snap and looked for an opening on a called quarterback draw. Two Buford defenders beat him to the spot for a loss.
"I remember that," Miller said. "That is by far the toughest defense we faced the last two years. They improved tremendously from last year. Is it the best defense I've ever seen? Hard to say. But if it's not the hardest hitting group we've faced, I don't want to remember who was."
Wilson summed up their attitude after the Woodward Academy game.
"We're going to hit you with everything we've got," he said. "We want to make it tough on the other team. We want people to remember us."
According to Miller, they remember, all right.