Wednesday September 20th, 2017 3:35AM

Buford defense slams door shut on Florida champs, 17-0

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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BUFORD -- Buford heard all about the Trinity Christian Academy defense, it's talent, its strength and ability.<br /> <br /> The Wolves heard all of that and then showed a national television audience just what a shutdown defense looks like.<br /> <br /> Buford stonewalled the reigning Class AAA champion from Florida 17-0 on Saturday at Tom Riden Stadium, holding the Conquerors to just 72 total yards and forcing eight punts in the process in front of a national television audience on ESPN2.<br /> <br /> "We knew coming in that we were every bit as good as they were; a team like them, they're used to doing the hitting, so we had to come out and show them we could do that too," Buford junior defensive lineman/tight end Isaac Nauta said. <br /> <br /> The Wolves (1-0) certainly did plenty of that in a game that left even fans feeling the effects of countless bone-crunching hits.<br /> <br /> "They were big, strong and physical, and we were just sweating, cramping and scrapping," Nauta said. "It was a lot of fun though. I love to be challenged in a game; I'd rather lose a close-fought game than win in a 71-0 blowout that's over at the half."<br /> <br /> There would be no blowing out on Saturday -- though Buford started as though it might, putting up 14 points inside the first six minutes thanks in large part to special teams and defense. Xavier Gantt set up the game's first touchdown with a 59-yard return to open the contest. The Wolves defense then forced and recovered a fumble to key a 19-yard scoring drive.<br /> <br /> "I'm grateful we could get a couple scores in the first half because they've got a great defense," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. <br /> <br /> Indeed, the Conquerors settled in after the Wolves' early blitz -- and the slobber-knocking began. And even though Buford managed 213 total yards -- 150 of that rushing -- the Wolves had to earn every yard.<br /> <br /> "We're going to find a whole lot of things we can do better," Simpson said. "We missed some calls tonight, and it was a first game, so that's part of it. I'm pleased, but we can get better."<br /> <br /> The Wolves special teams gave Simpson reason to smile -- not just in Gantt's return, but also with a 30-yard field goal from Matthew Bonadies that sealed the contest and a stout night of punting from David Curry.<br /> <br /> "David Curry did a great job not only kicking but catching snaps; we had a lot of hidden yardage there, and then the Bonadies kick was huge because that made it a three-score game," Simpson said.<br /> <br /> Bonadies' 30-yard boot capped a 12-play, 6:46 drive that started at the Wolves 20 and put the contest out of reach by the time Bonadies' kick cleared the uprights with 3:41 remaining.<br /> <br /> "That was as physical a game as I've seen," Simpson said. "Our defense held up over and over and over. But we've got to stay levelheaded; we're not as good as we think we are. We've got to come back down to earth on Monday and start working on getting better."<br /> <br /> The Wolves meant business from the opening kickoff on Satrday -- and Gantt showed it, ripping off a 59-yard return to give Buford its first play from scrimmage at the Conquerors' 41-yard line.<br /> <br /> Six plays later, the Wolves charged ahead on a perfectly-executed bootleg pass from Luke Humphrey (6 of 7, 63 yards) to Nauta, who broke wide open over the middle for a 24-yard score.<br /> <br /> Moments later Nauta made his presence felt on defense, smacking Trinity Christian running back Michael Clark to jar the ball loose -- a fumble that Gantt recovered at the Conquerors' 19.<br /> <br /> "I had helmet knocked sideways and I really didn't see much of it, I just clubbed at the ball," Nauta said.<br /> <br /> The turnover set up a 1-yard scoring plunge from Joshua Thomas -- who finished with a game-high 67 yard on 12 carries -- to make it 14-0 with 6:17 left in the first quarter.<br /> <br /> Despite managing minus-seven yards on their first two possessions, Trinity Christian stabilized its woeful start and stayed in the contest through halftime, forcing three straight Buford punts -- a moral victory for a team that managed just 35 yards of offense over the opening 24 minutes.<br /> <br /> Buford's offense also found tough going against the Conquerors, managing 73 yards in the first half -- 35 of that on the ground. It was a theme that was to continue for the rest of the night. And you get the feeling that opposing offenses will have that feeling for much of the season against Buford.<br /> <br /> The Wolves will play host to Berkmar on Friday.<br /> <br /> <br /> <b>SCORING SUMMARY</b><br /> <b>TRINITY CHRISTIAN</b>...0....0....0....0 -- 0<br /> <b>BUFORD</b>.....................14....0....0....3 -- 17<br /> <br /> <b>First Quarter</b><br /> BUF -- Nauta 24 pass from Humphrey (Bonadies kick) 9:00, 7-0<br /> BUF -- Thomas 1 run (Bonadies kick) 6:17, 14-0<br /> <br /> <b>Fourth Quarter</b><br /> BUF -- 30 field goal Bonadies, 3:41, 17-0
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