BUFORD — Buford coach Bryant Appling doesn't think twice when it comes to playing a brutal non-region schedule.
"I've seen the benefits of us playing a tough preseason schedule as we have at the beginning of the season," Buford coach Bryant Appling said. "Always, around here, we feel like if we can put ourselves in a playoff-type atmosphere early in the season, it helps you down the road - win, lose or draw."
The Wolves have already beaten the Class 7A defending state champ, Milton along with battles against Class 7A Newton, Life Christian of Virginia and Jonesboro.
And, tonight, the CLASS 5A No. 1-ranked Wolves (4-0) welcome No. 6-ranked Class 7A juggernaut, Archer (3-1), to Tom Riden Stadium for what should be another epic battle between the two state-wide powerhouses. AM 550 WDUN will have live coverage of the game. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
"Both teams lost a lot of stars, three or four five star kids that were really good players," Appling said. "Neither team has dropped off a whole bunch. Both teams are solid and have improved over the first few weeks of the season. I'm looking forward to a great matchup. I think it's going to be a good game."
The 2018 battle was a great game, with the Wolves taking every punch the Tigers threw at them, leading 24-20 midway through the third quarter. But Archer landed the knockout punch midway through the third quarter. The Tigers outscored Buford 28-0 in the final quarter and 1/2 to walk away 48-24 winners.
"I think this is one of the biggest games of the regular season," Buford quarterback Jarvis Evans Jr said. "I think it'll be a good test to see how the season might turn out for us. It'll be a show."
Archer quarterback Caleb Peevy sparked the Tigers flurry of touchdowns in the second half last season when he took off on a 54-yard run with 4:14 left in the third quarter. Peevy was 15-of-16 passing for 217 yards and rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on four carries.
He's back this year and Appling knows they have to respect Peevy's play this year.
"We didn't tackle great last year," Appling said. "We didn't respect his speed last year, because every time he runs it he gets about 15-20 yards. He can use his feet as a weapon. He can throw the ball on a dime on the run and in the picket. He's a great player. We're going to have our work cut out for us to stop him."
Archer also boasts a three-headed monster out the backfield with Jordan Swain, Schmari Campble and Rinaldo Spivey. The trio has rushed for a combined 650 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
"We're trying really hard to make sure they understand that if they're one inch too far or one gap too wide, they've got a crease, and they've got three guys that are fast enough to make you look silly when you do that."
For Buford, junior quarterback Jarvis Evans Jr leads an offense averaging 314 yards 35 points per game. Evans has passed for 523 yards with a 68 percent completion percentage.
"It's been a wild ride," Evans said. "We've been working all summer for this. To go out there and represent Buford every Friday has been amazing. I'm blessed."
Appling is pleased with his first-year starting quarterback.
"I'm more proud of Jarvis as far as how he's evolved as a leader," he said. "He has matured so much as far as his leadership ability. He commands the huddle. He gets in there and they listen to them and they know that he's good enough to make a play at any given time. He's been really efficient with the opportunities that he's had. He's making the plays when he's called to make plays."
Buford's early rushing game has been solid, rushing for 723 yards with 11 different backs, but Elijah Turner and Gabe Ervin Jr have been the main workhorses. The duo has rushed for a combined 510 yards and eight touchdowns.
"Gabe was a big strong junior that just didn't get a chance last yea,r and we knew he was going to shine when he got his chance," Appling said. "Elijah was our second-leading rusher behind [Derrian] Brown last year, and he showed flashes all last year that if he had to tote 20 times a game that he could go for 100 or 200 yards on a given night. I was proud of him last week against Newton. Elijah hit a different mode in the second half against Newton."
Appling says the biggest key to have success against Archer is tackling and establishing the run game.
"No 1 is going to be tackling," he said. "We can fill our gaps and put guys on the group where they stand instead of giving them three or four yards after contact. That will set us up on second and long or third long situations that we can hopefully send a little bit of pressure to get the quarterback off-kilter. We have to establish a run game -- get three to four yards a pop to put us in good situations. It's going to be a long night for both sides."