4 Questions with Buford head coach Bryant Appling

Today’s interviewee is Buford coach Bryant Appling, whose team is moving into the highest classification, Class 7A, for the first time after winning state titles the past three seasons in 6A and 5A. Appling, who got the head-coaching job in 2019 after 15 seasons as a Buford assistant, is the first coach in GHSA history to win three state titles in his first three seasons as a head coach.

Bryant Appling, Buford head coach

1. Looking back on the 2021 team one more time, what was its legacy? What made that season or that team different from your two other state champions and from other great Buford teams that you helped coach? “The 2021 team has to go down as one that went through so much unprecedented territory. 2019 a new coach and four road playoff games, 2020 move up classification and of course the COVID pandemic. So, that alone over three years was unlike any that has ever played. And then to do it a third time when everyone is shooting for you was very impressive. It was a great academic class as well that had all qualified to be accepted into college and many of them getting scholarships. They were a first-class group that set the bar real high for this group that is following them. Their positive attitude in the face of so much adversity will never be forgotten around here.” [Buford beat Hughes 21-20 in the 2021 Class 6A final, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to win a championship game for the third straight season. Ashton Daniels threw a 34-yard TD pass to Tobi Olawole with 2:55 left, and Hughes missed a 35-yard field goal attempt on the last play.]

2. Was getting the Buford job a longtime goal or dream of yours? What has been your career goal and what’s been your approach toward achieving it? “Being the head coach at Buford High School was not an aspiration of mine until I interviewed for the first time. Not that I didn’t want it; I just didn’t see myself in their seat until I got closer to the time that it actually happened. I just took it day by day and wanted to do the best at whatever job was mine. I still have many goals that I want to achieve, but I just try to do my best every day, and whatever is in the cards will come in due time.”

3. Buford is playing in the highest class for the first time in 2021. Is that an extra motivation or business as usual? “Of course, it is always on our minds. We have been saying repeatedly this could be our toughest schedule, both non-region and region, in the history of our program. Class 7A is hard to fathom, for us to come so far over these years, and we do recognize how tough it will be. For so long, the teams our kids have grown up playing in GFL, our youth rec league, never played against each other in high school due to our different classifications. This year, we are in a region with Mill Creek, Collins Hill and Mountain View, which are all huge schools nearby that we have never played but the kids have grown up with. That is going to be a challenge and a motivating factor in our preseason.” [Buford’s 2022 non-region schedule includes state powers Thompson of Alabama and Mallard Creek of North Carolina along with North Cobb and Marietta.]

4. How do you feel the 2022 Buford team be different from past Buford teams in terms of style, personality? “The 2022 team will be full of players that have been in backup rotator roles that will move to a starting role due to a large graduating class. We will be playing a lot of players, and they will have to get acclimated quickly. As always, we also have a lot of two-way players. We are always scouting ourselves and refining what we do, but the principles will be the same: Play a fundamental, physical brand of football that is sound on defense, solid on special teams, and a pro-style run-based offense.” [Buford returns six starters on offense, four on defense, and added Alabama-committed RB Justice Haynes as a transfer.]

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