It’s time to see what the big dog has. Defending AAA champion and No. 1-ranked Buford will host Elbert County in the season opener for both teams on Friday at Tom Riden Stadium.
Elbert County gave Buford all it could handle a year ago, as the Wolves emerged from the Granite Bowl in Elberton with a 14-3 win. Other than their loss to Gainesville, it was the toughest game the Wolves played until they reached the state championship game.
Buford’s defense should be strong again this season. Led by linebacker Korrie Rogers, the Wolves have plenty of playmakers back from a defense that didn’t allow a touchdown in nine games. The offense has depth at tailback and both quarterbacks (Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery Van Gorder) are back.
Elbert County went 5-5 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Blue Devils feature solid running backs in Rantious Reed and Tra Barnett and are expected to contend for the playoffs again this season.
Four other games to watch:
Rockmart at Cedartown: In this battle between two Polk County rivals, Rockmart will have to find a way to slow down Cedartown running back Nick Chubb. He ran for 363 yards in three quarters a year ago to help Cedartown to the 40-14 win. Cedartown leads the series 45-21-2 and has won the last two meetings.
Westminster at St. Pius: The No. 2-ranked Golden Lions have some holes, but there appears to be plenty of talent to offset the losses. Joey Connor takes over at quarterback for the unflappable Jack Spear and there are plenty of good backs to go around, including Branden Mitchell and Nick Ruffin. Dalton Wilson and Daniel Crochet are tackling machines. But the offensive and defensive lines must prove they can play against a schedule that’s front-loaded with good teams. St. Pius won it 21-3 last year on the way to winning the Region 6 championship.
Lovett at Blessed Trinity: The No. 7 Titans showed up and played some good defense in their 18-0 opening win over Westminster. Milton Shelton rushed for 50 yards and threw an option pass for a 93-yard touchdown last week. The junior, who ran for 894 yards a year ago, has the benefit of running behind a strong offensive line. The defense is led by junior linebacker Pat Jasinski, who has started since he was a freshman. A victory would be No. 100 in the career of coach Tim McFarlin.
Banks County at East Jackson: Neither team is expected to be a contender in their respective region, but enthusiasm is high for the opener since both schools have a new coach. The new Banks County coach is Biff Parson, who has long ties to the school. His father coached there for 10 years, but Biff attended Franklin County and went on to play professional football. East Jackson is coming off a winless season and turned to Gary Hughes, formerly the defensive coordinator at Dacula. Banks won last year’s game 46-30.