There were many questions about Buford when the football season. The Wolves have a new coach, a new philosophy and a new quarterback and there were a few pauses about whether the program could continue its long-sustained level of excellence.
Those questions have long-since vanished and the Wolves are again considered one of the teams capable of winning the state championship. New coach John Ford and his spread offense have been accepted and have thrived. Freshman quarterback Aaron McLaughlin is playing at a high level that belies his age. And that traditional rock-ribbed Buford defense looks at good as ever.
“We’ve come a long way,” Ford said. “I don’t know how to quantify it. You stack good days on top of good days, a great practicing team and a team that prepares well in the weight room. They’re a lot of fun to coach and I’m blessed to coach them.”
Buford won the Region 8-AAAAA championship on Friday, beating Flowery Branch 42-7. The Wolves finally allowed a touchdown – they were unscored-upon in October – and outscored their six region opponents 311-14.
McLaughlin threw four touchdown passes against Flowery Branch and is a much more confident and polished player than the one who took the field against Hillgrove in the season-opening Corky Kell Classic.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “I’m getting more confident. I’m seeing the field better. Coach Ford has done a great job teaching me and coaching me up.”
The Wolves will open the state playoffs on Friday at home against Paulding County, the No. 4 seed from Region 7.
Breaking down the brackets
Have you printed out your state playoff bracket? Click here for a Class AAAAA bracket. If so, you’ve probably done through all the what-ifs regarding your favorite school. Who’s got the toughest road? Who’s got the easiest path?
Top left bracket: Defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Rome lurks here. The Wolves play Cedar Shoals this week and would meet the winner of the Banneker-Southwest DeKalb game. No. 8 Starr’s Mill faces a good Dutchtown team in the first round, with the winner of the game between No. 7 Bainbridge and New Hampstead in the second round.
Bottom left bracket: No. 2 Buford and No. 3 Stockbridge, two of the state’s top defenses, could be headed for a collision course in the third round. Buford opens against Paulding County, with the winner playing Miller Grove or Jackson. Stockbridge opens against McIntosh, with the winner meeting a dangerous Ware County team or Harris County.
Top right bracket: No. 4 Warner Robins couldn’t play another ranked team until the third round. The Demons open with one-win South Effingham, with the winner getting either Whitewater or Eagle’s Landing. No. 10 Carrollton opens against a pretty good Clarke Central team, with the winner advancing to play Region 5 champion Arabia Mountain or North Springs.
Bottom right bracket: This bracket is loaded and really appears to be up for grabs. There are three teams that are currently ranked (Jones County, Griffin and Wayne County) and two others that have been ranked (Kell and Flowery Branch) among the eight participants. Kell and Flowery Branch play each other, with the winner getting the Columbia-Carver winner. No. 6 Wayne County plays Thomas County Central, with the winner playing the survivor of the game between No. 9 Griffin vs. No. 5 Jones County.