BUFORD -- Buford coach Jess Simpson has said all season that legacies are born in the playoffs.
The 2013 Wolves may have put the first major stamp on theirs after rallying from behind twice and then holding off Callaway in the second half for a 24-14 win at Tom Riden Stadium Friday night in the Class AAA semifinals.
The win moves Buford (14-0) into the title game for the seventh consecutive season -- the longest streak in the state. The Wolves will take on Washington County, which was a 37-0 winner over Ringgold in the other semifinal, in the championship game next Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the Georgia Dome.
The Wolves' seniors, who have been bold in stating they want to go out as the best-ever at Buford, put on a second-half display that certainly will go down in Buford lore.
The Wolves' defense held Callaway (12-2) to just 25 total yards in the second half and no first downs as they tried to erase their first deficits of the season and the first since last year's Class AAA semifinal game against Cartersville.
Simpson said their was no panic as they walked off the field trailing 14-7 at halftime.
"These kids are terrific," he said. "We talked about making some adjustments and they came out and did that. It is about being in the moment. Tonight, they had to have their best and they rose to the occasion.
"The defense was outstanding. Certainly, that second half, that performance and effort, the adjustments, the whole thing is something we'll probably be talking about for a long time."
Joshua Thomas, who scored all three of Buford's touchdowns, said the coaches gave them the blueprint for their second half success.
"They told us to come out (in the third quarter) and pop the cap off the thing," Thomas said. "That's what we tried to do. We wanted to go back to the title game for Adam, the fans, the community. It feels great to be able to do that."
They popped the cap off, all right. And it took less than six minutes.
After stopping Callaway on three plays to open the second half, the Wolves went back to their bread-and-butter.
The Buford offensive line blew open huge holes on four consecutive running plays with Thomas doing the bulk of the damage. He rambled 29 yards on the first play, which was followed by a 21-yard scamper by Thomas Wilson down to the Cavaliers' 16. Two plays later Thomas would crash in from five-yards out to tie the game at 14 with 9:26 left.
Thirty seconds later the Buford defense would provide the biggest play of the game. Callaway quarterback Tez Parks was hit by two Buford defenders trying to pass knocking the ball into the air. Buford lineman Shug Frazier snagged the bouncing ball off the back of another player for the interception at the Callaway 28.
Three plays later Thomas scored his third touchdown of the game on a 6-yard run to give the Wolves their first lead of the game, 21-14, with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
The Wolves capped the dominant quarter by stopping the Cavaliers on three quick plays on their next possession and Matt Bonadies capping a 36-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal for a 24-14 lead with 1:12 left in the quarter.
"We have the best (offensive) line in the state and they proved it," Thomas said. "They were blowing people up on the line. They made it easy for us."
Meanwhile, the defense never let Parks and an explosive Callaway offense, which came into the game averaging 48 points in the playoffs, get going after that. Plus, a torrential downpour consumed most of the fourth quarter making any offensive play an adventure.
Simpson said they will actually enjoy this one for a few days and then get ready for the finals.
"It's a lot of hard work to get to this point and we'll let the guys enjoy it. But on Monday it's back to work," he said.
The game did not start in typical fashion for Buford, however.
The Wolves would take the opening kickoff and move down to the Callaway 20, highlighted by a 25-yard pass from Taylor Mitchell to Tre' Neal. But the drive would stall at the 15 and for one of the rare times in the playoffs the Wolves failed to capitalize as Matt Bonadies missed a 32-yard field goal.
The Cavaliers would respond. Facing a 3rd-and-10 at the Callaway 20, Parks connected with Devon Rosser on a 35-yard screen pass, who was close to breaking away. The Wolves ran him down and stripped him of the ball but the Cavaliers' Ed Daniel would recover at the Buford 35. Three plays later Parks would streak around right end for a 22-yard touchdown run to give Callaway a stunning 7-0 lead.
Buford would answer back on its next drive. Thomas would cap a 9-play, 80-yard drive with a 26-yard TD run to tie the game at 7 with just seven seconds left in the first quarter.
The two teams would trade punts to start the second quarter but the Cavaliers were able to take advantage of a short Buford kick starting at the Wolves' 48. Parks lofted a long pass down the right sideline that Terry Godwin was able to wrestle away from two Buford defenders for a 45-yard gain to the Buford 3.
The Buford defense stood tall forcing the Cavaliers into a 4th-and-goal at the 1 but Eddie Culpepper slammed into the end zone on fourth down to give them a 14-7 lead with 4:02 left in the first half.
Buford tried to answer back driving to the Cavaliers' 22 with under a minute left in the half. But a holding call and two solid defensive stops of Thomas Wilson on third and fourth downs snuffed out the Buford drive with 44 seconds left.
Buford would finish the game with 361 yards rushing, 226 in the second half. Thomas finished with 187 yards on 18 carries and Wilson had 128 yards on 15 carries.
Callaway had 161 yards of offense by halftime but finished with just 187 for the game. Buford held Parks to zero yards passing and minus-1 yard rushing in the second half.
NOTES: Buford's run of state title appearances will be hard to match. The best streak before this one was by Valdosta, which went six times in an eight-year period from 1955-62. . .The Wolves have now won 21 straight home playoff games, the best current streak in Georgia. The Wolves' last loss at home in the playoffs was to Charlton County in the quarterfinals in 2006.
Callaway....7....7....0....0 -- 14
Buford.....7.....0....17....0 -- 24
CAL -- Parks 22 run (Freeman kick) 7-0, 3:35
BUF -- J. Thomas 26 run (Bonadies kick) 7-7, 0:07
CAL -- Culpepper 1 run (Freeman kick) 14-7, 4:02
BUF -- J. Thomas 5 run (Bonadies kick) 14-14, 9:26
BUF -- J. Thomas 6 run (Bonadies kick) 21-14, 6:26
BUF -- Bonadies 43 FG 24-14, 1:12