BUFORD — Buford coach Bryant Appling admitted he was at a loss to explain why virtually every key move he and the Wolves have made during the 2019 playoffs has paid off.
But one thing he did know for certain is, as the saying goes, “fortune favors the bold.” Or is it “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Or is it both?
“I don’t think there’s any one thing that can really explain why things have worked out so well,” Appling said. “I think we’ve been prepared and that’s a huge part of it. But a couple of things were really just gut feelings that we felt would work. We were fortunate on a couple of things.”
Like facing a 4th-and-2 at their own 28 against No. 1 Carrollton and already trailing 14-7 in the first half in the quarterfinals.
“Well, there are times when you’re kind of reading the momentum of the game and, on that one, we just did not want to give them back the ball,” Appling said. “More of a gut on that one.”
Victor Venn made Appling look like a genius responding with a 72-yard touchdown run to tie the game on the gutsy 4th down call.
How about pulling out a fake punt late in that same game on a 4th-and-6 at midfield with the game tied at 21?
“That one was more about seeing something on film that we felt would work and being prepared,” he said. “We almost did it on that 4th-and-2 but decided to hold onto it for a better time. The guys executed it just the way we practiced it.”
Punter Hayden Olsen, who had never thrown a varsity pass, found a wide-open Justice Johnson for a 7-yard completion to keep the eventual game-winning drive alive.
Then there was the 38-yard flea-flicker touchdown pass from Treyton Rank to Craig Clinkscales against Jones County in the semifinals.
“Again, that one was just kind of a gut-feeling call where we had seen something and decided to give it a try,” Appling said.
His defense totally throttled a potent Jones County offense. Several key blitz calls, including one that resulted in a safety, helped them register six sacks, almost all of them at crucial times.
“That was also just from watching film and seeing something that we thought we could take advantage of,” Appling said. “That quarterback is a lot better than he showed in that game, but I feel it was because we had a good game plan put together. There’s always a risk when you blitz a guy like that, but again it was our guys making plays.”
Not his phrase for sure, but ‘gunslinger mentality’ is something several of the media covering the Wolves have run with, especially the last two weeks.
Appling chuckled when asked if he saw himself taking on the persona of a Clint Eastwood Old West hero: “Not a chance.”
But he also said if he resembles that, it’s because of what he learned in his 15-years as an assistant under Dexter Wood, Jess Simpson and John Ford. And he also had a great explanation of why he and the Wolves are being perceived that way.
“I’m nothing like (a gunslinger),” he said. “But I’m also not afraid of taking a shot if I feel it’s the right thing to do. Jess took some chances for sure. All coaches do at times. What I learned is that all of the good teams take shots and chances at times.
“You have to be ready. You can’t be afraid to take that one big shot when no one thinks you should. But to be able to do that, you have to be prepared. As a coach and a head coach especially, you have to trust the staff you have and trust the kids to make plays in big moments.
“We have a great staff that gets the kids prepared. We have a great group of guys that want to learn and work hard every day to be prepared. That is probably the key to whatever kind of good fortune we’re having.”
As they prepare for Friday’s Class 5A championship game against Warner Robins -- 4:30 p.m. kickoff at Georgia State stadium -- don’t look for a sudden conservative shift from Appling and the Wolves.
“Every game is different and you have to be following the flow of the game,” Appling said. “If I feel we need to take a chance, we will. I don’t see us suddenly sitting back waiting for things to happen.”
As another old saying goes: “You make your own breaks.”