By GLENNIS CURRY
For the AJC
The Buford reign over its neighbors ended Friday night, as Lovett dashed to a 21-point lead and held off the two-time defending Class AA champions 28-21 at Conley-Oakley Field in Atlanta.
A last-minute defensive stand preserved the win for Lovett (3-0, 1-0 in Region 6-AA) and gave the Wolves their first defeat to a region opponent as a Class AA school. Buford had not lost a region game since losing to Commerce in 2000, when the teams played in Region 8-A.
Since then the Wolves had defeated 58 consecutive region opponents, including 55 wins in Class AA after joining in 2002. As a member of Region 6-AA, the Wolves were 23-for-23 before Friday. Buford (2-1, 0-1) had won 49 consecutive regular-season games after losing to Central Gwinnett on Sept. 10, 2004.
“I’ve not experienced a bigger win in the five years that I’ve been here, “Lovett coach Mike Muschamp said. “For us to come out and hold them was huge for our team and our fans.”
Buford took over the ball at its own 6 with 2:41 left to play, and drove 72 yards before Alex Ross was intercepted by Daniel Candler at the goal line as time expired. Candler returned the ball to the 10 and slid, setting off a celebration enjoyed by the entire student body.
“We did a whole lot of growing up tonight,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said in the postgame huddle. “We are going to get a lot better because of this. You’re going to grow from this and get another chance.”
Lovett led 28-7 in the second quarter behind quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff. He found Campbell Wilson for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Lions their biggest lead. Lovett faced third-and-goal from the 17, when Carkhuff found the tight end in the right corner of the end zone.
Carkhuff finished the game 18-for-29 passing, for 192 yards and two passing touchdowns. He also rushed for a 1-yard score in the second quarter.
“Jonathan Carkhuff is hands down the best quarterback I’ve coached,” Muschamp said in praise of the senior who was 0-3 against Buford. “I’ve had others that have gone on to play college ball, and he’s by far the best.”
Buford had beaten Lovett in each of their five previous meetings, including three consecutive shutouts. Lovett quickly ended thoughts of a fourth by scoring on the second play of the game, when Carkhuff hit Zach Boden on an 8-yard hook pass. Boden, who had rushed for 48 yards on the first play, pitched a lateral to Drew Stockton, who ran up the left sideline from 16 yards away. Carkhuff also found Eric Hood for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 3:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Ross connected with Jessel Curry for two touchdown passes in the first half, 10 and 11 yards respectively, and drove 81 yards on 14 plays to pull within 28-21 with 5:10 to play. Ross completed 18 of 33 passes for 209 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.