BUFORD — When Buford meets Lee County on Tuesday in the Class 6A state championship game at Georgia State Stadium, most eyes obviously will be watching to see which of the two teams’ top three offenses can crack two of the state’s best defenses.
But the outcome may come down to which special teams unit can win the all-important battle of field position. Or better yet, provide a game-winning kick.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. and you can hear the game live on WDUN AM 550 (Click to listen live) beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the pregame.
The Wolves know all about having a special teams unit that can deliver. Buford got two game-winning field goals in their run to the 2019 Class 5A title.
But gone is kicker Hayden Olsen. The Tennessee Tech-signee was nearly automatic, especially in the playoffs, booting both game-winning field goals, the second in overtime in last year’s finals.
Alejandro Mata has replaced Olsen and been more than capable of hitting on 62-of-64 PATs and 11-of-14 field goals, including a 48-yarder earlier in the season. Opposing teams are averaging a minuscule 11.5 yards on kickoff returns on 53 returns against the Wolves on the season.
But the punt team has been just as stout. Three Buford punters -- Jarvis Evans, Ashton Daniels, and Cole Taylor -- and the punt team have allowed only 5 punt returns for 47 total yards and no TDs in 13 games. Lee County special teams are among the state’s best with five blocked kicks and three return touchdowns on the season.
Which means something will have to give. And Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said it could be the deciding factor.
“Buford is outstanding on special teams, as they are in all phases of the game. We will need to be at our best (in that area) to have a chance to win this game,” Fabrizio said.
Wolves’ coach Bryant Appling also understands the importance of winning the special teams battle.
“Special teams will be huge again,” Appling said. “It was a key factor for us last year and we’ll need that same kind of effort. We will have to be tough in that area. We cannot let them have big returns like they have gotten so far this year.
“Alejandro has done a great job for us and we would have no problem putting him out there with the game on the line. Overall I see this as an even game between two great teams.
“It’s the little things that can make the biggest difference and we feel real good about our special teams. It should be a great matchup in that area.”