Here are just a few things that we learned from Friday’s state championship football game:
No. 1: No one knew how good the Buford defense really was, particularly against the run, until the last three weeks. It was hard to gauge because Buford was so much better than 90 percent of everyone on its schedule. But neither Carver nor Callaway nor Washington County was able put a dent in Buford’s run defense.
The size and athletic ability of Buford against the run was particularly evident against Washington County. The defensive line and linebackers suffocated any inside attempts and the quickness prevented Waco from hitting the corners. As a result, a Washington County team that entered the game with three 1,000-yard rushers wound up with a total for 42 yards. (Buford did a similar dance on Carver and Callaway the two previous weeks.)
No. 2: Korie Rogers is a tremendous talent and could be an impact player when he arrives at Clemson. Rogers is quick and strong and has a motor that doesn’t quit. He had two sacks, but it how-do-you-do meeting of Washington County quarterback A.J. Gray on a fourth-and-1 sent a gasp through the big crowd at the Georgia Dome. Before the game Washington County alum Takeo Spikes, who had a 15-year NFL career, gave an inspirational talk to his old team. Korie Rogers may be doing the same thing in a few years.
No. 3: Washington County has some legitimate offensive weapons. Quarterback A.J. Gray has a great arm and is one tough kid. Those big diesels from Buford sacked him for times and pressured him all night, but he stayed in there are kept the game close on a night when the offense could get nothing going. His favorite target was D.J. Sanders, who used his height to out-jump defenders and his speed to get behind the secondary for two huge gains. He could be a big-time player at the next level.
No. 4: Mistakes count more in a championship game. Buford had to re-kick after getting a five-yard penalty on a punt and Washington County returned the second kick for a touchdown. Washington County had a 57-yard pass completion negated because of a holding call, which led to poor field position, a poor punt and a quick Buford touchdown.
No. 5: Both Buford and Washington County communities are to be congratulated for their attendance at the game. The Sandersville crowd was dressed in black and gold, while the Buford side was covered in green. They cheered, they moaned, they probably cried a little — either with pride or dismay. Both communities did a great job representing their schools and should be commended. No wonder both places are special among the high school community. Both programs are worthy of their status as icons in Georgia football.