50-in-50: Buford

The Buford football team will concentrate on finding some answers on the offensive and defensive line this spring. If successful there’s no reason to believe the Wolves can’t make an appearance in the state championship game for the seventh consecutive season.

Buford went 12-3 last year and beat St. Pius 10-3 to win the program’s ninth state championship and its fifth in the last six seasons. The Wolves always aim high and this year is no exception, despite losing the regular contingent of college signees.

“We’ve got a good group of players coming back and we’re off to a good start to our off-season,” said Buford coach Jess Simpson. “The hardest thing is going to be to fill in the leadership role left by our seniors. They were some great role models. But the good news is that these kids to watch it and see how great leadership is modeled.”

It is unlikely Buford will ever experience another similarly tumultuous season. They suffered through the death of a beloved assistant coach and two colleagues. Then there was the unfortunate clerical error that caused the team to forfeit two wins and cost them a region championship.

“Things just kept happening and it was amazing to see the strength of the kids in the program and the strength of the community. It’s so unique,” Simpson said. “To watch them pull together and come together, it’s something I’ll never forget.”

The Wolves will again lean on a defense that held nine of its 15 opponents without a touchdown last year.

The defense will be led by linebacker Korie Rogers (6-2, 200), a four-star recruit that has drawn the interest of most schools in the SEC and ACC, as well as Nebraska, Penn State and West Virginia. Rogers was the AJC’s Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year as a junior.

The issue is on the defensive line, where three talented players graduated and went on to college. End Donte Gordon is the lone holdover on the front. Other returning defensive starters are linebacker Deion King, cornerbacks Terrance Wilson and Thomas Wilson, and free safety Tre Neal.

“I’m most concerned with our defensive line,” Simpson said. “We were able to make a lot of plays because of our play up front.”

The same issue exists to some degree on the offensive line. The left side returns intact with tackle Hunter Holland and guard Nick Polino and the dependable Nick Lulkowski is back at center. Harrison Morgan backed up UGA-signee Josh Cardiello a year ago, but is expected to move into the lineup; Morgan is considered a D-I prospect.

“We have to develop some good offensive linemen,” Simpson said. “It’s key that the offensive line comes together.”

The backfield is in great shape with co-quarterbacks Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery VanGorder, who shared the duties a year ago. A deep corp of backs includes fullbacks Donte Gordon, Joshua Thomas and David Curry and running backs Zavior Hoxie, Thomas Wilson and Xavier Gantt. Neal is a solid at one wideout, but the Wolves are in need of help there.

“I like our skill positions,” Simpson said.

Buford Wolves

2012 record: 12-3, 5-2 (two losses by forfeit) in Region 7-AAA, beat St. Pius in Class AAA championship game.

Starters returning: 6 on offense, 6 on defense

Key players lost: OL-DL Josh Cardiello (Georgia), TE-DL Mikey Bart (North Carolina), RB Dontravious Wilson (Central Florida)

Key players returning: LB Korie Rogers, DB Thomas Wilson, FB-LB Joshua Thomas, OL Harrison Morgan, RB Zavior Hoxie

Spring practice dates: May 6-17; spring scrimmage on May 17 at 4 p.m.

Schedule: Aug. 30 Elbert County; Sept. 6 at Gainesville; Sept. 13 at Hancock Central; Sept. 27 Banks County; Oct. 4 at West Hall; Oct. 11 White County; Oct. 18 at Dawson County; Oct. 25 at Fannin County; Nov. 1 East Hall; Nov. 8 at North Hall

Outlook: The Wolves need to find some answers on the offensive and defensive line. Otherwise they’re loaded again and should contend for another state championship.

Follow @ajcprepsports on Twitter.

34 comments Add your comment

BT

March 27th, 2013
9:17 am

In all my years associated with HS football, I have never seen a program with all the intangables in place for success the way they have it. Facitilties, coaching, school/community support, funding details..no wonder folks want to be a part of the program. For those of you that disagree with players moving around and call it recruiting, get used to it because it is the new normal.

AAA commisioner

March 27th, 2013
11:43 am

Intangibles that are well supported by a schedule WHERE THEY PLAY NOBODY ALL SEASON LONG. yes, set that schedule up to win like that and you can hold all kinds of consecutive state records and have turf practice facilities, concrete stadium with metal caps on the post…..Congrats on the next 50 year run with that kick ass schedule….. sure would like to see all of that superior coached talent play someone week in and week out like all other High Schools do in Gwinnett. North Gwinnett competes with a 3A roster at 6A. Whats the big deal?

poof!!!

March 27th, 2013
2:51 pm

An easy schedule doesn’t assist you in the post season.

AAA commisioner

March 27th, 2013
3:14 pm

Yes it very much assist in post season play. How many times does a 6A team in Gwinnett get to pull all of their starters because they are up on their opponenets by 6-7 TD’s by halftime.This happens almost every game. Yes it sure does, those players are not in one contest all season and then they get to the Championship without a blimish or injury. Their whole season is a cakewalk…..

JB

March 27th, 2013
3:22 pm

Buford used to play North Gwinnett year in and year out and Buford dominated them. No one wants to play Buford because they are do not want to get beat by a AAA team, meaning higher classifications stay away in playing Buford.

AAA commisioner

March 27th, 2013
4:56 pm

Yes you are correct. They did dominate NG and that is a result of NG at that time use to be on that list of teams they could dominate just like they have today. So you just proved my point. They play a weak schedule and they play teams they dominate. Never heard of half of the teams they play anyway but they dominate everyone. PTR’s JV would win well over 75% of their games if they played the same schedule Buford plays today.

James Morgen

March 27th, 2013
7:02 pm

AAA Commish, if you feel that strong about NG, you are welcome to ask Coach Sphire to schedule a scrimmage. I am sure the Buford people will oblige! It wouldn’t count against their record and the community would love it and all the chitter chatter can be put to rest. Just remember a young Buford team (2 returning starter) played Gainesville (AAAAA state champs) down to the wire and now they have officially reloaded. So know the facts first before venturing off into deep waters.

Agree

March 27th, 2013
7:22 pm

JB is correct! 6A schools don’t want to play Buford! They would get there butts kicked. I watched Buford play in 2A. Their offense and defensive line was bigger than the Falcons. The kid that went to LSU(Vadal Alexander) was 6″ 7″ and 335lbs. Don’t forgert about the kid that starts for UGA on the offensive line. Their size is so much bigger than 6A schools! That includes Camden or anyone from Gwinnett. Coaches know not to schedule them. I am not a Buford fan due to the way they recruit. Just stating the facts!

BW

March 27th, 2013
7:38 pm

NG wants no part of Buford, ask them!

Widget

March 27th, 2013
7:55 pm

The easiest region in the state assists you to the postseason and in the postseason.

BullDawg Rick

March 27th, 2013
10:29 pm

Proof in the fact no one wants Buford at the varsity level… You can say all you want about the HS… Look no farther than GFL…Buford wins 2 – 3 grade levels every season.. Built from the youth leagues.. For the varsity – No State championship caliber team (Many reside in Gwinnett) want to be taken toe to toe & beaten… Like Buford would to to whomever is on their sked…

& That’s a fact!

JB

March 28th, 2013
7:37 am

I can’t understand why you say Buford has the weakest schedule, yet they have been in the past what 7 state championships? It doesn’t add up to me.

HardHat

March 28th, 2013
7:43 am

I see a 2 game schedule It is a very, very, easy slate of games that said I can see why some bigger schools would have second thoughts about putting them on their schedule.
It is the old double edged sword you are good and the bigger schools may feel like they have the most to lose.
But as an opponent I would welcome the competition and Buford travels well. So if you are AAAAAA and need a non region game who would be better to get your team ready for the playoffs Meadowcreek,Bekmar,Shiloh or Buford? And who would bring the most folks to your home field to boost the gate? Unless your are looking for the doormat homecoming game.
Buford I could see winnning a championship in AAAA and certainly go real deep if not winning it all in AAAAA. It is too bad that the GHSA doesn’t allow schools to play up just in football.

G-dub

March 28th, 2013
9:00 am

In the words of the great Dick Vitale…Cupcake City Baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HS fan

March 28th, 2013
10:25 am

Most would agree regular season schedule is weak but unless GHSA lets them move up in major sports only it ain’t going to happen. They play where the GHSA says they have to play. 6A doesn’t want any. At least Gainesville will give them a home and home and its a good rivalry. Buford used to travel out of state to get out non divisional games. I’m not saying teams like Grayson and NG are afraid to play them but they wouldn’t get anything by doing so. Believe me there is no team the players at Buford want to play more than NG or MC.
Most of the recruiting coordinators in the country will tell you it doesn’t matter who they play. Fundamentally players coming out of Buford are sound and thats what they want to see. Also a reason why parents are getting in line to send their kids there.
I for one would love to see them in the Korky Kell but they won’t get invited.

G-dub

March 28th, 2013
12:19 pm

@HS fan…that’s a great idea about the Korky Kell Classic.

BT

March 29th, 2013
7:08 am

Buford cant help what region/classification they are in and FB is not the only sport at BHS. You have to look at the big picture and how playing up effects all sports. I myself have never figured out why they are not invited to the KK classic. I guess the thinking is to give schools a chance to play in the Dome that usually don’t come playoff time!!

Flyer

March 29th, 2013
10:48 am

@BullDawg Rick– Buford has won 7 age group championships since 2004 (9 seasons). 5 of those championships were won by 2 teams. Buford fields teams in each age group. There are 9 separate age goups per year. Buford has never won more than 1 in a single year.

Trojan94

March 30th, 2013
8:43 am

I don’t know if the can win AAAA sandy creek might be better.

BW

March 30th, 2013
7:02 pm

The higher classifications depth would be a hugh factor. Buford usually has about 4-5 go both ways. Now 11 on 11 they can play with anybody.

Lovett Fan

March 31st, 2013
4:56 pm

We shall miss the challenge of playing them in AA. As steel sharpens steel, it takes a man to sharpen a man… good luck Wolves!

itsonlywrite

April 1st, 2013
8:58 am

there’s always been an argument that Buford needs to play up in a higher classification b/c there’s no way for that school to still be a “small” school. With all the growth and development around Buford, there should be big enrollment numbers at Buford. In comparison to Gainesville, Gville jumped up 2 classifications and Buford only 1 after all these years. That doesnt really make sense. They must have a enrollment limit to keep the school certified to stay in lower classifications.

BUT!!! even with that said and the thought of their schedule being “cupcake,” Buford’s football teams have been every bit as good as they are made out to be…

#ELEPHANTNATION

kidsballcoach

April 1st, 2013
11:32 am

Buford moved up but still steers clear of playing tough teams outside their region. Bufords weak schedule directly improves their chances in the post season by giving them a much better chance of going into the playoff HEALTHY. SPX will play arguably the toughest schedule in AAA, not just because of their region, but because they will seek competitive out of region play which puts them in the situation of being tested week after week during the season. I would offer that Thomsons’ loss in the playoff’s last year was a direct correlation to the injuries suffered in playing a tough schedule. SPX Played both and will again this season and if they get to the Dome, Buford will know SPX has been tested, but will Buford have been?

Bwolves

April 1st, 2013
12:10 pm

kidsballcoach. I see you don’t just whine on the Scout AAA Board. You have to play the teams in your Region. Was Region 7 the hardest Region in AAA, no, but we can’t control that. North Hall did beat the defending AAA Champion (Peach Co) which Buford beat during the regular season. Buford did lose on the field by 5 points to the State AAAAA Champion Gainesville. Buford had to pick up 1 game and could only find an A school that would play them. Buford beat some good teams on the road to get to the Dome, Carver, North Oconee (Unbeaten), Cartersville (Unbeaten) and your boys. Everyone has injures, Buford had more season ending injuries to starters this past year than in the last 5 years. Buford’s offensive line was not set until about the 4th game. Call 1-800-Waah about your schedule. St Pius may have played a tougher schedule up until the playoffs, so what. You lost the Championship game. Get over it and quit complaining and making excuses.

Bwolves

April 1st, 2013
12:19 pm

AAA Commish. Buford plays where they’re supposed to. North Gwinnett competes at the 6A level with a 3A roster?????? North Gwinett has put many D-1 players in College over the last few years and have been very successful. Your comment doesn’t make any sense and is without merit. Buford plays where they’re supposed to play by their enrollment numbers. Don’t worry about how Buford runs its athletic program or school system. We don’t worry about Peachtree Ridge or what any other team in Gwinnett County does. Move on.

Btownwolvesden

April 1st, 2013
12:40 pm

All this BTOWN Hatred, and the good folks in BTOWN happily go about our everyday lives with no care to what you folks around the state say or do.

We are concerned with BUFORD, and BUFORD only!!!!!

Maybe if some of you all would be concerned about your school/community and your school/community ONLY, you’ll enjoy some of the same success that Buford has……

It Is what It is folks……and that’s all it is!!!!

kidsballcoach

April 1st, 2013
1:22 pm

Bwolves, Get the memo- we are talking about 2013 and Buford still has a weak schedule and it does affect the post season play. SPX again will play a VERY tough schedule. EMBRACE IT!
Oh and check your facts: From the SPX Website :9/7/12 7:30 PM North Oconee High School Home W 50-14, NO was not undefeated they were the SPX home opener last year.
Buford is REALLY defensive about their schedule for some reason!

Btownwolvesden

April 1st, 2013
1:39 pm

Nope, not defensive….just a lot of faith in our coaching staff and our kids to keep the BTOWN tradition alive and well. You complain about our schedule strength, but it hasn’t hindered us from winning 9 State Titles, 5 out of the last 6 years now has it?

Something now right with your arguement there buddy. I assume when you are settling for 2nd place, you always have to make excuses…..

kidsballcoach

April 1st, 2013
2:08 pm

What excuse? You keep talking about last season not me I am looking forward.

itsonlywrite

April 1st, 2013
10:00 pm

The only way Buford benefits from their schedule is by having a guaranteed chance to make it to the playoffs.. and I guess having “fresh” players. But at the end of the day, they still play the same teams that would have made the playoffs either way and they beat em. *Kanye shrug* And if you look at who they lost to and who they beat last year, it’s evident that they are as good as they made out to be. They beat North Hall. They got by SPX. They battled hard with Gainesville. What more do you want?

FootballTopFanFan(c)

April 1st, 2013
10:13 pm

FootballTopFan would like to congratulate the Buford Wolves and Head Coach Jess Simpson on their Class AAA Championship.

They have a great tradition of winning with nine (9) state championships. We wish you good luck and success in the upcoming season

FootballTopFan loves high school football.

Bufordblows

April 1st, 2013
10:48 pm

Does it even matter? Buford just recruits them a roster full of AAAAAA talent and plays in AAA, so why even worry about it? There is nothing fair about what the GHSA lets Buford get away with. It’s really shameful. No school in any classification could ever do what Buford has been doing the past 15 years by doing it the “normal” way….like everyone else. It’s clear. They don’t. Everybody knows that. And nobody respects anything Buford has done. Cheaters never win!

75son

April 2nd, 2013
5:43 am

Buford is Buford, love it hate it, don’t matter. Drive around the Gwinnett Co. school systems and check out the mobile classrooms. Didn’t say HIGH schools all of them. Most students who don’t live in Buford but pay tuition start early,elementary or Academy,some atheletes start in middle school,some in ninth grade. All that isn’t a secret. Come to a Buford home game and sit with parents of players who have MOVED to get their children into the Buford system and ask, better yet just sit and listen………you could learn a lot grasshopper. @ Bufordblows

Buford83

April 2nd, 2013
4:33 pm

“An easy schedule doesn’t assist you in the post season.”

They haven’t seemed to need much help the last few post-seasons. You can hate on the schedule and the team all you want, but the numbers and facts don’t lie.