BUFORD -- Some quick perspective on Friday's Class AAA semifinal at Buford's Tom Riden Stadium:
-- Callaway will be making its first ever state semifinal appearance, Buford its seventh straight.
-- Callaway is hunting for its first ever state championship, Buford its ninth in 13 seasons.
Yet the talk out of Buford this week could easily be mistaken for a Callaway quote:
"We haven't really done anything in our minds yet," Wolves senior quarterback Montgomery VanGorder said. "We're felling pretty good coming into this game, but we've got to play our best ball right now. This is the semifinals."
When you combine Buford's talent with that attitude, it's no wonder the Wolves (13-0) are right back in the championship race. And Buford says that to stay in that hunt it must focus squarely on a Cavaliers squad (12-1) that has the kind of athleticism to derail any team.
(To watch a video preview of Friday's Class AAA semifinal, simply click "play" in the box to the right.)
"I'd start with the word explosive," Buford coach Jess Simpson said of Callaway. "On offense they have four or five guys that are just special players. They're very well coached up front. And defensively they are very similar to (Buford quarterfinal opponent) Carver (Columbus), maybe not quite as big as Carver, but maybe even different in some good ways as well. They hit well, get off blocks well, rally to the ball well. It's going to be a challenge again for us this week."
That challenge starts for Buford's offense against a Callaway defense that features senior linebacker Keshun Freeman (a Georgia Tech commit) and junior defensive back Terry Godwin. The standouts anchor a unit allowing 14.8 points per game and prides itself on swarming to the ball and overwhelming foes with numbers.
"They're a great defense, probably the best defense we've seen," VanGorder said. "We just have to play physical, come out and start fast and run the ball and throw it when we have to and we'll be all right."
The Wolves have had little trouble doing that to opponents this season, averaging 265 rush yards per game behind a dominant offensive line and a number of capable backs. Thomas Wilson (717 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Joshua Thomas (725 yards, 11 TDs) lead a stable of rushers that include eight backs that have run for over 100 yards and 15 different players that have tallied a rushing touchdown. Their play, combined with VanGorder and Taylor Mitchell at quarterback (1,458 passing yards split almost evenly, 9 TDs apiece, completing 67 and 69 of their passes, respectively) have helped Buford average just under 50 points per game.
"We have great running backs, and we have a great offensive line. It's luxurious really," VanGorder said. "We're just back there managing the game, and, when we have to, we make big plays. All the running backs do their jobs. And if one guy goes down we've got another guy who can step in."
And then there is that defense.
Buford's 4-3 unit enters tonight's contest allowing just 6 points per game and just 13 points through three playoff wins (4.3 points per game).
"I think this is one of the best defenses perhaps to come through Buford, which is saying a lot," Wolves senior linebacker and Clemson commit Korie Rogers said. "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."
That direction will focus on stopping on the Cavaliers run game this week.
Featuring quarterback Tez Parks, running back Eddie Culpepper and fullback Devon Rosser, the Cavaliers have lit up the postseason, averaging 48.6 points through three wins. Yet the Wolves enter the battle allowing just 1.7 yards per rush.
"The challenge as far as keys go is pretty simple for our defense," Rogers said of Friday's contest. "I just hope we can make it look simple on Friday night."
To the outsider, the Wolves have certainly made things look pretty simple this postseason, outscoring three foes 134-13. Yet Rogers says that Buford's coaching staff ensures there are no thoughts of coasting.
"Honestly it all goes back to the coaches and the fact they never get satisfied," Rogers said. "Many teams would have been happy with a 26-0 lead over Woodward Academy at halftime (in a second round game the Wolves went on to win 40-7), but we get to halftime and we're getting yelled at for missing certain keys and stuff that can hurt us later in the playoffs, so I think it all goes back to the coaches."
Yet the Wolves coaches say they are just part of the equation and note that much of the motivation throughout each week comes from within the roster itself.
"We have a great group of seniors and they're very locked in and focused," Simpson said. "And they take a lot of pride in playing well on Friday night. I think as a senior you think about your legacy a little bit, but as a high school kid you really only think of that when you're older and gone. I think they're in the moment right now, and that's where I want them to be. All that other stuff is just stuff for people to talk about. We can talk about it later. Let's just play good this week."
-- NOTE: Buford is 11-0 in state semifinal games since 2000.
CALLAWAY at BUFORD
-- WHAT: Class AAA football semifinal
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- RADIO: 550 AM
-- CALLAWAY (12-1, No. 1 seed Region 4-AAA): Defeated St. Pius 35-21 in the quarterfinals
-- BUFORD (13-0, No. 1 seed Region 7-AAA): Defeated Carver, Columbus 36-6 in the quarterfinals
-- HISTORY: Buford won the only previous meeting, 52-14 in the second round of the 2010 Class AA playoffs.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Washington County vs. Ringgold winner in the Class AAA title game at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in the Georgia Dome