Questions that should be answered next week in the Class AAA championship game between St. Pius and Buford:
Can the Buford defense slow down the St. Pius option? After putting the kibosh on Cartersville’s aerial circus on Friday, the Wolves will be asked to again stuff the run. Cartersville managed only 24 yards of offense in the second half after starting the game with a 10-0 lead. Only this time they’ll be asked to do it against one of the best running teams in the state. The Golden Lions had 279 yards of total offense against North Hall in the semifinals, with fullback Ryan Braswell rushing for 131 yards of that.
Is the St. Pius defense up to the challenge? The Golden Lions have one of the state’s best defensive coordinators in Jerry Stewart, who served in the same capacity during Parkview’s glory years. Pius has some good size and can expect to face some pounding by Buford’s big offensive line, but they’ll have to stop the Wolves exceptional backfield of Dontravious Wilson and Joshua Thomas. Buford had 317 yards in offense against Cartersville.
Which quarterback will shine? Neither team is quarterback-centric, but both have a solid presence under center. St. Pius relies on left-hander Jack Spear, who does a good job making the right calls on the option and is capable of keeping the opposition honest with his arm. (Spear threw a 34-yard touchdown pass against North Hall and ran for a 53-yard touchdown.) Buford’s Montgomery VanGorder is equally underrated, but is effective at managing the game. VanGorder, like Spear, can surprise with the pass; he had a touchdown pass against Cartersville that put the game away.
Who will have the Dome-field advantage? Buford has played at the Georgia Dome so many times that it almost feels like its voice needs to be heard on the issue of building the new Atlanta Falcons stadium with the retractable roof. This will be the sixth straight year the Wolves have played for the state championship. The Georgia Dome is like a second home to the Wolves. St. Pius has played there a couple of times; the Lions beat Grady 37-13 in a regular-season game in 2009 and lost to Northside Warner Robins 20-17 in the 2006 semifinals.