Sunday May 29th, 2016 7:49AM

Intriguing title game showdown lining up for broadcast on Friday

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
When the Georgia High School Association opted to move its football state championship games to the Georgia Dome, it had games in mind like this year's Class AAA title showdown.

Two storied programs -- each featuring a strength that is the best in their classification -- will face off when Buford takes on Washington County at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Atlanta in a game broadcast live on both WDUN AM 550 and 102.9 FM.

The Wolves feature the stingiest defense in Class AAA -- and, arguably, the best defensive unit across all classifications -- but Buford, which is yielding 6.6 points per contest, knows it will face perhaps its toughest test of the season when it tackles a Washington County attack that enters averaging a Class AAA-best 49.9 points per game.

The Golden Hawks (13-0 -- their season opener against Eagles Landing Christian was aborted due to an electrical storm) have lit up their side of the bracket this postseason, winning their four contests by an average score of 49-10, as they gun for their program's first state title since 1997 (the Golden Hawks also won championships in '94 and '96).

There is also little doubt that Washington County has faced any defense like Buford's.

The Wolves (14-0) are allowing opponents just under 134 yards per game and 2 yards per rush, as they push for their ninth state crown in 13 seasons. And even though Callaway found a way to put up two first half touchdowns in last week's semifinal, Buford held the Cavaliers to 26 total yards in the second half -- none of that through the air.

Washington County's read-option/spread attack has gashed foes both with the pass and the run this season -- though the Golden Hawks' ground game has been the more dominant facet of their version of the spread thanks to three players rushing for over 1,200 yards apiece this season.

Junior quarterback A.J. Gray has excelled this season, compiling 39 touchdowns and rolling up over 2,800 total yards. He is flanked by an explosive set of running backs, including Melvin Hill, who has over 1,700 yards on the ground, and Danyale Wicker (over 1,200 yards).

Buford's defense has yielded a total of 778 rush yards this season and has shutdown a number of option offenses.

Yet the match-up on the other side of the ball could prove just as pivotal come Friday, and neither the Wolves' offense nor the Golden Hawks' defense has struggled this season.

Washington County enters the battle allowing just 11 points per game -- the only outlier coming in a 36-33 overtime defeat of Class AA finalist Lovett on Oct. 4 in Atlanta.

The Golden Hawks feature outside linebacker/defensive back D.J. Sanders, who picked off four passes in Washington County's 46-17 quarterfinal win at Blessed Trinity, and yielded just 95 total yards to Ringgold in the semifinals.

Buford's offense, meanwhile, is coming off its lowest points total of the season (24) in last week's comeback defeat of Callaway. Yet the Wolves still rolled up 407 yards in the victory, pulling away after the interval thanks in large part to a rushing attack that has ground up opposing defenses this season. Buford rushed for 344 yards in the contest -- bettering their 2013 average of 272 rush yards per game.

Buford will also have the added advantage of familiarity with the Georgia Dome, its atmosphere and the weight of expectations that come with a title game showdown. In fact, Friday will mark the Wolves seventh straight state championship appearance.

Washington County is no stranger to title games, but its current players are, having not played for a state crown since 2004. The Golden Hawks reached the state semifinals last season but fell to St. Pius.

Certainly both teams will be itching to make their mark come Friday, and Jacobs Media will be along for every step, with the live broadcast, as well as in-depth game and post-game coverage from Access North's Friday Game Night page.
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