It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Buford.
Senior running back Martin Mangram scored three rushing touchdowns after halftime and helped the defending Class AAAA champions reverse an 18-7 deficit to beat No. 3 Woodward Academy 35-18 Friday night and reach its ninth consecutive state championship game.
No. 2 Buford (13-1) will play top-ranked Cartersville for the Class AAAA title next Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the Georgia Dome. A win will give the school four straight state championships for the second time in a 9-year stretch and 11 titles overall since 2001.
“I knew by watching (Woodward Academy) all year that it would be a four-quarter game,” Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. “Our kids kept playing with confidence and did it a little better in the second half than the first.”
Mangram finished the night with 122 yards rushing on 15 carries, with 80 coming in the final quarter. His 39-yard score put Buford ahead 28-18 with 4:52 to go, and a 27-yard run set up his 4-yard score with 2:36 to play.
“Obviously they are a championship team,” Woodward Academy head coach John Hunt said. “There were some opportunities to make a play; we couldn’t and they did. I have to tip my hat to them.”
Woodward took the opening kickoff and went ahead 6-0 after a 70-yard, 5-play drive that ended with a 22-yard run from Elijah Holyfield. Woodward quarterback Ryan Glover completed three passes for 47 yards on the drive.
Buford took a 7-6 lead on the ensuing drive when quarterback Mic Roof found Brandon Marsh for a 21-yard score with 7:29 left to play in the first quarter.
Woodward drove inside the Buford 15 on the next drive but was stopped on fourth down. Buford was called for a chop block on first down, and Buford lost a fumble at the 3 on the next play. Three plays later Holyfield scored on a third-down from one yard out to put Woodward up 12-7 as time expired in the first quarter.
Facing 4th-and-2 from the Buford 42 with less than four minutes to play before halftime, Glover faked a dive over the offensive line and passed to tight end Stephen Elliott, who ran untouched up the middle of the field to put Woodward ahead 18-7.
“I thought it set up really well for us,” Hunt said. “We had been running right a lot on the quarterback power. It was perfectly executed up front and gave us a bit of momentum at that point.”
Buford drove 80 yards to pull within 18-14 with12 seconds before halftime. A 10-yard pass from Roof to Caleb Auer on fourth down extended the drive and a pass interference penalty moved the ball inside the Woodward 20. A 15-yard pass from Roof to Joshua Blackwell created first down at the 3, and T.D. Roof scored on second down from the 1.
“We changed up a couple things, but even more than that we played our calls a little better,” Simpson said. “Credit goes to them for doing some different things. When it goes out here, it goes fast.”
The Wolves extended their home playoff game win streak to 27. Buford last lost a playoff game at Tom Riden Stadium to Charlton County in 2006, and the Wolves last lost a playoff game at any venue in the 2011 Class AA final against Calhoun at the Georgia Dome.
No 3. Woodward Academy (13-1) fell short of the state final for the second straight year. The War Eagles were bounced from the 2014 playoffs by St. Pius. Glover finished 15-of-33 passing for 177 yards and a touchdown. Holyfield rushed for 57 yards on 19 carriesm, and Josh Johnson caught seven passes for 55 yards.
Buford 35, Woodward Academy 18
W 12 6 0 0 18
B 7 7 7 14 35
W - Elijah Holyfield 22 run (kick failed)
B - Brandon Marsh 21 pass from Mic Roof (Bernardo Burgos kick)
W - Holyfield 1 run (kick failed)
W - Stephen Elliott 42 pass from Ryan Glover (kick failed)
B - T.D. Roof 1 run (Burgos kick)
B - Martin Mangram 5 run (Burgos kick)
B - Mangram 39 run (Burgos kick)
B - Mangram 4 run (Burgos kick)
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