Class AAA Title Game (5:30 p.m.)
Washington County (13-0) vs. Buford (14-0)
Overview: Two of the state’s iconic programs make their first-ever meeting in the championship game. Washington County has won three state championships and this year won its 14th region title. Buford has won nine state championships and 24 region titles. The Wolves will be making their seventh straight appearance in the state final and have won five of the last six.
Washington County season: The Golden Hawks remained undefeated after escaping a close call against Lovett, winning the game in overtime. From that point their closest game came against Blessed Trinity in the quarterfinals, a 47-17 victory. Washington County beat Ringgold 37-0 in the semifinal.
Buford season: The Wolves went relatively unchallenged during the regular season, the closest game being a 38-14 win over reigning Class AAAAA champion Gainesville on Sept. 6 that really wasn’t that close. Buford was tested in the semifinals against Callaway and actually trailed at halftime before winning 24-14.
Washington County strength: The offense gets most of the credit. The spread offense has enabled the Hawks to take advantage of their offensive weapons and run up big numbers. They’ve not scored fewer than 36 points and have surpassed 50 points in seven games.
Buford strength: Although Buford is only 10 points shy of setting a record for most points in a season, the foundation of the team’s success is defense. No opponent has scored more than two touchdowns against the Wolves and the first-team offense has been stout. Buford would likely have more than five shutouts if the starting group played the entire game.
Washington County’s top players: Two of the Golden Hawks best prospects are juniors: QB/DB A.J. Gray (6-1, 195) and LB Logan Hunt. Senior D.J. Sanders (6-1, 190) has committed to Middle Tennessee State. RB Danyale Wicker (5-8, 175) is considered a baseball prospect, mostly likely as a shortstop.
Buford’s top players: Senior LB Korie Rogers (6-2, 218) has committed to Clemson. Senior S Tre Neal (6-3, 185) is being recruited by the likes of Miami, Vanderbilt and Central Florida. Senior Thomas Wilson (5-11, 175) has committed to Missouri.
On Washington County: “They’re very explosive on offense and have a lot of different weapons. … The defense will put a lot of pressure on you. … They’re really fast on film, but in person they’re even quicker. “ – Peach County coach Chad Campbell, whose team lost to Washington County 56-16 in the second round of the playoffs.
On Buford: “They’ve got great players and not just the first 11 or 22, they’re probably three deep without any fall-off and they roll them in there freely. And coach Simpson and his staff does a good job coaching them and getting them prepared for each game. But look at their personnel and they’re just better than people they play.” – North Hall coach Bob Christmas, whose team lost to Buford 42-14 on Nov. 8.
AJC pick: Buford 28, Washington County 27