Buford has been the most successful football program in the state of Georgia over the past 20 years. But in Class 6A, Lee County has ruled the roost since 2017, winning a pair of state titles and now making its third trip to the Class 6A championship game in four years.
The Trojans (12-1) are a blistering 52-5 overall since 2017. The fun part will be they will take on the Wolves (12-1) next Tuesday for the Class 6A title at Georgia State Stadium. You can hear the game live on WDUN AM 550 (Click to listen live) beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the pregame. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The two teams have been ranked Nos. 1 and 2 most of the season. Both offenses and defenses are in the top three in Class 6A. It's arguably the best finals matchup of the three-day session.
AccessWDUN caught up with long-time Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio (12 seasons) to discuss his group, its success over the years, and the dream matchup for fans with Buford.
QUESTION: Coach, thanks for taking some time to talk with us. You and your staff have built Lee County into one of the more consistent programs in the state over the past five or six years. The Trojans had never made it out of the second round until 2017. Was this a hidden program just waiting for the right staff to push it to the next level? What factors do you think have been the most important in building up the program?
ANSWER: What people don't understand is that the years preceding 2017 is by far the most successful years in football Lee County had ever had. We just continued to build and improve the program. The other factor was the regions we have been in have been ultra-competitive with the state champion coming out of it five of the last six years. So we were a lot closer than people thought to a state championship level team in the years preceding 2017.
QUESTION: This senior class has now been to the finals three of their four years. Is it one of those special classes that come around every so often or is it more about buying into what y’all have been teaching? A combination of the two?
ANSWER: No doubt this is a special class; very special. The thing about it is the guys that came before this group set the standard. These players want to uphold that and build on it for them.
QUESTION: It is the first time the two programs have met. Is that a challenge for both teams at this stage as far as preparation? What are the key things you look at when scouting a team for the first time whether it be in person or on film?
ANSWER: It really isn't a big factor that we haven't played with each other before.
QUESTION: Okay. Both teams are at the top of the classification in both offense and defense. Both teams like to run the ball but also have been efficient in the passing game. The matchups on both sides should be outstanding. Is there one matchup, in particular, you are looking forward to watching as a coach?
ANSWER: There are great matchups all over the field. The highly touted Buford (offensive line) vs. our (defensive) front. Also, Buford's stable of big-time running backs showcasing their skills against our running back duo of Sr. Preston Simmons [155-994, 11 TD] and Sr. Caleb McDowell [157-1,258, 8 ypc, 26 TD; 96.7 pyg avg; South Carolina-signee].
QUESTION: Special teams almost always play a big role in high-pressure games. Y’alls group has been among the state’s best with five blocked kicks and three return touchdowns on the season. How crucial will special teams play be on Tuesday?
ANSWER: Buford is outstanding on special teams, as they are in all phases of the game. We will need to be at our best there to have a chance to win this game.
QUESTION: Y’all are undefeated in the finals, winning both the previous two times you made it this far. Do y’all do anything differently as far as preparation goes when you get here? Do y’all have any special routines that you follow?
ANSWER: Well, every time we have played in the finals the game hasn't been played on the date it was originally scheduled. In 2017, we drove up to play (Coffee County) and had to turn around and play the following week do to the ice storm in Atlanta. Then, in 2018 the Atlanta soccer team made the championship game and we had to play the following Tuesday night. Of course, this year the season got bumped back two weeks and we had to push it back a few more days so as not to conflict with Christmas. We try to treat the finals preparation-wise like any other game.
QUESTION: What do you see as the keys in this game?
ANSWER: With two great teams like this, turnovers and who can prevent big plays will be big keys.