BUFORD — Two electric special teams plays, an efficient passing game from Dylan Raiola and a shutdown defense propelled Buford High to a 31-0 win Friday over Carver at Tom Riden Stadium.
Raiola, the consensus No. 1-ranked prospect in the 2024 recruiting class who is committed to Georgia, completed 14 of his 18 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, and the Buford defense held the Panthers under 150 yards offensively.
But the Wolves (4-0) struggled to establish the running game and lost two fumbles in the red zone.
The Wolves squandered two red zone opportunities in the first half, including a fumble on their first drive by running back Kobi Blackwell at the Carver 2-yard line. Instead of picking up an early touchdown, Carver’s Justin Johnson Jr. recovered the fumble and took it 73 yards the other way before being tackled at the Buford 25.
The Wolves appeared to find a rhythm offensively after a 9-play, 89-yard drive led to a 10-yard touchdown from Raiola to fellow five-star prospect KJ Bolden, who is committed to Florida State. That put Buford ahead 7-0.
But Buford stalled offensively, going three-and-out and turning the ball over on downs in the red zone on its next two drives.
“We were just sputtering around, playing around a little bit and not finishing drives,” Buford head coach Bryant Appling said. “We moved the ball really good in the first half. Just a turnover here and not finishing on fourth down on another drive.”
The Wolves made it down to the red zone one more time but had to settle for a field goal as time expired in the first half. Buford led 10-0 at halftime.
Jeremiah Colbert finally gave the Wolves some breathing room with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. Tyshun White caught the second touchdown pass from Raiola, then after the next Carver possession, fielded a line drive punt in stride at the Panther 43-yard line and raced down the sideline. He dove for the end zone and lost control of the ball, but teammate Osiris Gilbert was there to recover it in the end zone for a touchdown to put the Wolves ahead 31-0.
“Jeremiah Colbert and Ty White on their two plays and Osiris Gilbert hustling down to pick it up in the end zone, I was proud of the play of those guys,” Appling said. “Special teams won the second half for us.”
Still, the Wolves coughed up two more fumbles before the game ended, another of which Buford lost near the end zone.
Appling said the fumbles were uncharacteristic and chalked them up as the result of an off night.
“I think it was an anomaly, but you never like it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something that will stick around.”
BHS—KJ Bolden 10 pass from Dylan Raiola (Mario Ventura kick)
BHS—Ventura 27 field goal
BHS—Jeremiah Colbert 85 kickoff return (Ventura kick)
BHS—Tyshun White 7 pass from Raiola (Ventura kick)
BHS—Osiris Gilbert fumble recovered in end zone (Ventura kick)