The Class AAA championship game between No. 3 Washington County and No. 1 Buford has all the makings of a real shootout.
Washington County (13-0) has scored 649 points. Seven times the Golden Hawks have scored at least 50 and they’ve averaged 41.2 in four playoff games.
Buford (14-0) has scored 672 points, leaving the Wolves only 10 points shy of matching the state’s single season scoring record set by Dublin in 2006. Buford scored at least 50 points in five games and put up 70 against East Hall.
They’ve taken different offensive routes to reach this point. Washington County has made a successful transition to the spread offense, while Buford has stuck with the traditional smash-mouth style.
Washington County coach Joel Ingram began learning about the innovative spread attack about four years ago. He would read an article or hear a coach at a clinic, and add another aspect to his game plan. He opted to sell out on the spread attack two seasons ago.
“We’ve got guys who can play in the spread,” Ingram said. “I wanted to put them in situations where they could be successful. We try to execute what we can do.”
The quarterback who make the Washington County spread so effective is junior A.J. Gray. He has rushed 139 times for 1,308 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s completed 90 of 130 passes for 1,682 yards and 14 touchdowns, with only four interceptions.
The Golden Hawks have two senior running backs that have surpassed 1,000 yards. Melvin Hill has rushed 181 times for 1,771 yards and 33 touchdowns and Danyale Wicker has carried 162 times for 1,569 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Buford has worked its offensive magic by successfully rotating two quarterbacks and without the benefit of a 1,000-yard rusher.
The quarterback tandem in Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery VanGorder. They shared the job last year and took the team to a championship. Their numbers are almost identical: Mitchell has thrown for 775 yards and nine touchdowns and VanGorder has thrown for 745 yards and nine touchdowns. Van Gorder has thrown two interceptions, Mitchell only one.
Buford’s most productive runners are Joshua Thomas (946 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Thomas Wilson (812 yards, 16 touchdowns). But 26 different players have carried the ball for the Wolves this year, 15 scored a touchdown and nine accumulated more than 100 yards.
And while the offense for each team gets the headlines, the defenses may wind up being the deciding factor. Both schools have been outstanding there all season. Buford has allowed just 92 points with four shutouts. Washington County has given up 143 points with three shutouts, including last week’s 37-0 victory over Ringgold.
The defenses have created turnovers and helped create scoring opportunities and short fields for the offense.
Washington County’s Logan Hunt has 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and four blocked punts, Marcel Johnson has four sacks and two forced fumbles and D.J. Sanders has seven interceptions.
The Buford defense is especially tough against the run and has allowed fewer than 770 yards on the ground. The defense is led by linebacker Korie Rogers, a five-star recruit and Clemson commitment, and lineman Donte Gordon, who is one of the top pass rushers in the state.