The Buford defense took a couple of early shots from Cartersville in their Class AAA semifinal but dominated the rest of the way as the visiting Wolves rallied from a 10-0 first-half deficit to beat the Purple Hurricanes 21-10 in the Class AAA semifinals on Friday.
The victory puts Buford (11-3) in the state championship game for the 11th time in 13 seasons. The Wolves will play for the ninth state title in school history at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Georgia Dome. Cartersville, which was the only remaining undefeated team in Class AAA, finished the season 13-1.
The Wolves held Cartersville to 24 yards of total offense in the second half, intercepted three passes and recorded four sacks. Two of the interceptions set up touchdowns that turned the early deficit into a 14-10 lead.
Buford trailed 10-0 with less than three minutes to play in the first half when Korie Rogers turned the momentum of the game with an interception that gave the Wolves the ball at the Cartersville 16. Dontravious Wilson scored five plays later on a 2-yard run to cut the lead to 10-7.
An interception by Thomas Wilson late in the third quarter set up Buford’s next touchdown, giving the Wolves the ball at the Cartersville 40. Joshua Thomas scored on a 3-yard run seven plays later to give Buford the lead for good at 14-10 with 11:05 to play in the game.
Buford put the game away on its next drive on a 14-yard pass from Montgomery VanGorder to freshman Isaac Nauta with 5:30 to play. Both of the Wolves’ fourth-quarter touchdowns came on fourth-and-1 plays.
Cartersville took the game’s opening possession and drove 85 yards in 12 plays to the Buford 3, where Preston Slemp kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 7:39 to play in the first quarter. The Purple Hurricanes made it 10-0 midway through the second quarter when Brooks Barden threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mark Quattlebaum.
Buford was hurt by penalties, particularly in the first half, finishing the game with 11 for 110 yards. Two of the flags likely cost them 14 points. A holding call in the third quarter nullified a 38-yard double-reverse touchdown from VanGorder to Zavior Hoxie, and an ineligible man downfield call brought back to the 40 a pass that would have given Buford a first-and-goal inside the 5 in the second quarter. Buford did not score on either drive.
Buford, which finished with a 317-194 advantage in total offense, was led by Dontravious Wilson’s 84 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Buford – 0-7-0-14 – 21
Cartersville – 3-7-0-0– 10
C – Preston Slemp 20 field goal
C – Mark Quattlebaum 15 pass from Brooks Barden (Slemp kick)
B – Dontravious Wilson 2 run (Matthew Bonadies kick)
B – Joshua Thomas 3 run (Bonadies kick)
B – Isaac Nauta 14 pass from Montgomery VanGorder (Bonadies kick)