Normally the only time you’d see Buford and Elbert County play would be the postseason. The two teams are in different regions and have no history with each other. But Friday night fans will get an early taste of the playoffs when the two state-ranked teams open the season.
Buford will make its first appearance at the Granite Bowl in Elberton on Friday. The only previous meeting between the two clubs came last year in the Class AA quarterfinals, a 49-13 Buford victory.
The No. 2 Wolves will be making their AAA debut; they’ve had double-digit wins for 13 straight seasons and finished second in the state in 2011, breaking a string of four straight championship seasons. Buford lost 32 seniors from last year’s team, but return offensive line stalwart Josh Cardiello, a Georgia commitment.
The No. 4 Blue Devils are led by tailback Tyshon Dye, a Clemson commitment who rushed for 1,515 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior. Dye had 889 yards and 11 TDs as a sophomore. Elbert County will likely start freshman Mecole Hardman at quarterback.
Elbert County coach Sid Fritts wasn’t pleased with the way his offensive line played in the scrimmage against Apalachee. “If we don’t get better up front, it makes it hard to move the football,” Fritts told the Elberton Star.
Four other games to watch tonight:
St. Pius at Westminster: Westminster has dominated this series, although the series was interrupted for nearly a decade. The Wildcats lead 23-4, but St. Pius won 28-21 last year to break a six-game losing streak. No. 4 St. Pius returns five starters from a defensive unit that recorded five shutouts a year ago. The centerpiece of the defense is the defensive back duo of Nick Glass, a Georgia commitment, and Nick Ruffin, who has numerous FBS offers. The Lions will need to stop Westminster’s Nigel Walker, who ran for two touchdowns in the opening loss to Blessed Trinity.
Blessed Trinity at Lovett: Now that No. 9 Blessed Trinity has taken down next-door neighbor Westminster, the Titans have switched their focus to Lovett, the No. 7 team in Class AA. Lovett leads the series 4-2, but Blessed Trinity won last year’s game 31-28. Blessed Trinity won its opener on thanks to three defensive scores and may have found a solution at running back, where freshman Milton Shelton came in to rush for 112 yards and one touchdown in the second half. Lovett rode its defense to a win last week over Woodward Academy, forcing three turnovers and limiting the War Eagles to only a field goal.
Mary Persons at Jackson: Expect a huge crowd at Red Devil Hill for one of the area’s fiercest rivalries. Jackson, now competing in Region 2-AAA, appears ready to get back on track after failing to make the playoffs the two previous seasons. The Red Devils had won nine or more games in eight of the previous nine campaigns. This will be the first season for Mary Persons coach Brian Nelson, who took over when Rodney Walker retired; the veteran finished his career with 40-24 record in six years with the Bulldogs. Mary Persons leads the series 51-18 and has won the last two games, including a 36-20 decision last year.
Cedartown at Rockmart: This marks the 68th playing of this rivalry between two West Georgia teams, making it one of the oldest in the state. The Rockmart fans are buying up T-shirts from a local merchant that features a Yellow Jacket lassoing and riding a Cedartown Bulldog. Cedartown leads the series 44-21-2 and won last year’s game 28-18. Cedartown was 8-3 last season, its first winning season since 2003. Rockmart was 4-6 last year, its first losing season since 2004.