Buford 44, Carver-Atlanta 16

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Buford — After struggling in the first half against an upset-minded Carver-Atlanta team, the Buford Wolves received a jolt of momentum every time Justice Haynes touched the ball.

The highly touted running back only had seven rushes and two catches on the night, but he made every one count.

Haynes had touchdown runs of 60 and 53 yards to go with a 66-yard touchdown catch to help the Wolves (4-0) turn a competitive game into a second-half route that ended in a 44-16 win over the Panthers (3-1). Haynes, the Alabama commit and AJC Super 11 selection, finished with 216 all-purpose yards and the three touchdowns.

“Some kids are special, and he’s a special player,” head coach Bryant Appling said of Haynes.

Haynes’ first touchdown came through the air when the Wolves trailed the Panthers 8-7 just 1 minute and 45 seconds before halftime. Appling dialed up a well-timed screen pass to Haynes, who had plenty of blockers in front of him to spring him toward the end zone.

On the ensuing kickoff, Carver’s DeAndre Buchannon made one of the biggest plays of the night as he caught the ball near the corner of the end zone and stretched the field before breaking free for a 96-yard kickoff return to give the Panthers a 16-15 lead going into halftime.

Once again, Appling leaned on Haynes to give his team a spark. On Buford’s first play of the second half, Haynes took a handoff up the middle, bounced left and broke loose toward the end zone. He wouldn’t be denied a 60-yard touchdown as he spun free of the last Panther defender.

Justin Baker added a 7-yard touchdown run with 4:22 to go in the third quarter before Haynes was off to the races again. His 53-yard scamper with 2:37 left in the third put the game out of reach.

“He does a great job fitting into what we do and not being all about himself,” Appling said of Haynes. “He’s never been that since he’s been here. I’m proud of the way he’s leading these guys. He walked out there as a captain because he’s been doing everything right.”

Buford amassed over 300 rushing yards after only having 45 in the first half. Quarterback Dylan Wittke added 190 passing yards and two touchdowns to give the Wolves more than 500 yards of offense.

Appling said he expected a tough test from Carver, a state-runner up in Class 3A last season, and while it didn’t always look pretty, his team stood tall in the second half.

“I told them all week long Carver-Atlanta is a great program,” he said.

“It took them being hit in the mouth and being down at halftime to be the team they needed to be. Hopefully that’ll be the wakeup call. We’ll see.”

Scoring summary

First Quarter

BUF (7:25)  KJ Bolden 25 pass from Dylan Wittke (JD Gregroy Kick)

Second Quarter

CAR (10:05) Zyee’k Mender 39 pass from Bryce Bowens (Bowens conversion)

BUF (1:45) Justice Haynes 66 pass from Dylan Wittke (Eli McElwaney conversion)

CAR (1:32) DeAndre Buchannon 96 kick return (Bowens conversion)

Third Quarter

BUF (10:06)  Haynes 60 run (Wittke to Bryson Banks)

BUF (4:22) Justin Baker 7 run (Gregory kick)

BUF (2:37) Haynes 53 run (Gregory kick)

Fourth Quarter

BUF (9:47) Ryan McKinnis 2  run (Gregory kick)