Buford survives weekend in which No. 1 teams, ex-champs suffered losses

August 20, 2021 - Kennesaw, Ga: Buford running back Victor Venn (6) celebrates his rushing touchdown with Callum Fraser (15) during the second half against North Cobb at North Cobb high school Friday, August 20, 2021 in Kennesaw, Ga.. Buford won 35-27. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
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August 20, 2021 - Kennesaw, Ga: Buford running back Victor Venn (6) celebrates his rushing touchdown with Callum Fraser (15) during the second half against North Cobb at North Cobb high school Friday, August 20, 2021 in Kennesaw, Ga.. Buford won 35-27. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Three of Georgia’s top-ranked high school football teams – Rabun County (2A), Eagle’s Landing Christian (A Private) and Brooks County (A Public) – lost their season openers last week.

So did three of the state’s defending champions – 7A Grayson, 3A Pierce County and A Private Prince Avenue Christian.

For a while Friday night, it looked like Buford, the state’s only team that entered the season as both a defending champion and No. 1-ranked team, might join them in the loss column.

Trailing North Cobb 14-0 midway through the third quarter, Buford finally got things going, scoring touchdowns on four consecutive possessions in a nine-minute span to turn a 14-point deficit into a 14-point lead and went on to a 35-27 victory over the third-ranked team in Class 7A.

After the Wolves cut the deficit to 14-7 on a 36-yard pass from Ashton Daniels to Malik Spencer, they turned two North Cobb fumbles and a botched punt by the Warriors into touchdowns to take control.

“When we went inside [for halftime, trailing 14-0], we looked at a team of young guys, guys that were playing tight, guys that felt like they were pressing,” Buford coach Bryant Appling said. “We played tight the whole first half, and we just challenged them to have fun. ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard, just have fun every play,’ and they started playing Buford football.

“We started doing it the way we wanted them to do it. We caused some turnovers and we made some stops. Defense stepped up a lot, and the offense stepped up when we needed them to step up and put some points on the board.”

C.J. Clinkscales had 87 of the Wolves’ 183 rushing yards. Isaiah Bond had four receptions for 96 yards, and Daniels was 12-of-16 passing for 169 yards and ran for 37 yards on six carries.

North Cobb won 28-14 when the teams met in 2020, but the Wolves have since won 14 consecutive games.

*Strong showing at the Corky Kell: Class 6A teams went 4-2 in the season-opening Corky Kell Classic, including three impressive victories against Class 7A teams – Buford beat North Cobb 35-27, Westlake beat Archer 29-14, and Johns Creek beat Gainesville 26-10 in a weather-shortened game. The one game in the event matching Class 6A teams was Tucker at Dacula in a Thursday night contest. Dacula got two rushing touchdowns from Kyle Efford and one from Jonathan Williams, and return touchdowns by Tristen Strong (fumble, 12 yards) William Green (interception, 44 yards) in building a 32-0 halftime lead. The Falcons held Tucker to minus-88 rushing yards and 41 total yards. Kell was overwhelmed by Class 7A McEachern 53-20 in the first game Saturday morning.

*Loss in Valdosta debut: Shelton Felton ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard in his first game as Valdosta’s interim coach when the Wildcats fell to Class 5A No. 2 Warner Robins 48-20 on Saturday. The Wildcats took an early 7-0 lead on a blocked-punt return by Camren Bailey, but Warner Robins scored on four consecutive possessions before halftime to seize control of the game. Valdosta was outgained by the Demons 493-233. Valdosta beat Warner Robins 28-25 last year, but the Wildcats eventually had to forfeit the game, and Warner Robins went on to win a state championship. Felton was hired in the offseason to replace Rush Propst, who was fired over allegations of illegal recruiting. Valdosta was fined by the GHSA and banned from the 2021 playoffs.

*Out of the top 10: Allatoona, No. 6 in the preseason, fell out of the rankings for the first time since 2018 after opening the season with a 25-17 overtime loss to rival Harrison of Class 7A. The Buccaneers tied the game on a 4-yard run by Cody Rice with 5:47 remaining in the fourth quarter, but they were intercepted in overtime after Harrison had scored a touchdown and two-point conversion on its possession. The first-game loss wasn’t unusual for the Buccaneers, who have now dropped six of their last seven season openers. However, they have reached the second round of the playoffs or beyond each of those years.

*A rare tie: Despite a GHSA rule that no games are supposed to end in ties, Glynn Academy and Class A Public school McIntosh called it a night after finishing four quarters even at 14-14. MCA tied the game in final two minutes with a touchdown pass and two-point conversion. Glynn coach Rocky Hidalgo was critical of his team’s performance. “We can’t block anybody,” he told Sebastian Emanuel of the Brunswick News. " We can’t sustain drives. We made two big plays, same as last week [scrimmage vs. Bainbridge]. We can’t block people, we can’t block up front right now, we’re just not very good up front. We are soft, we get tired, we get lazy. That’s where we are right now on offense.”

*Schedule

Here is the Week 2 schedule, as of Monday night (all games are Friday unless noted):

*Region 1: Jackson-Atlanta at Lee County; Peach County at Northside-Warner Robins; Crisp County at Houston County; Madison County, Fla. at Valdosta

*Region 2: Brunswick at McIntosh County Academy; Camden County at Glynn Academy; Effingham County at Beaufort, S.C.; South Effingham at Metter; Bradwell Institute at Liberty County; Statesboro, Richmond Hill off

*Region 3: Evans at Hephzibah; Grovetown at Thomson; Newton at Alcovy; Meadowcreek at Heritage-Conyers; Rockdale County at Salem; Lakeside-Evans off

*Region 4: Lovejoy at Carver-Atlanta (Saturday); Westlake at Colquitt County; Hughes at Allatoona; Morrow at Forest Park; Tucker at Cedar Grove; Miller Grove at Lakeside-Atlanta; North Atlanta off

*Region 5: Alexander at Lithia Springs; Newnan at Carrollton; Stockbridge at Douglas County; South Paulding at North Paulding; Ridgeland at Dalton; East Paulding at Campbell; Paulding County at Hiram; Rome off

*Region 6: Discovery at Kennesaw Mountain; Walton at Pope; Pebblebrook at South Paulding; Woodland-Cartersville at Osborne; Hughes at Allatoona; Kell at Hillgrove; Lambert at Lassiter; Wheeler at Riverwood; Sprayberry off

*Region 7: Johns Creek at Travelers Rest, S.C.; River Ridge at Woodstock; Wheeler at Riverwood; Cherokee at Sequoyah; Cambridge at South Forsyth; Roswell at Centennial; Gainesville at Chattahoochee; Creekview off

*Region 8: Buford at Clarke Central; Jefferson at Central Gwinnett; Dacula at Brookwood; Eastside at Winder-Barrow; Apalachee at Habersham Central; Lanier, Shiloh off