North Cobb 28, Buford 14

North Cobb wide receivers Xavier Clark (4) and Christian Moss (5) celebrate Moss' touchdown in the second half of Friday's game against Buford. (Daniel Varnado/Special to the AJC)
North Cobb wide receivers Xavier Clark (4) and Christian Moss (5) celebrate Moss' touchdown in the second half of Friday's game against Buford. (Daniel Varnado/Special to the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

North Cobb coach Shane Queen said it was probably the biggest victory in his 15 seasons at the school.

The Warriors got big plays offensively from Malachi Singleton and Christian Moss plus a gutsy performance from an outsized defense and beat visiting Buford 28-14 Friday at Emory Sewell Stadium.

“Man, to come in here and play against a team like that and play the way we did was very impressive,” Queen said. “That’s the winningest program in the last 20 years in Georgia. They’ve lost like 17 games in 17 years. So that was special for our kids and our community.”

The Wolves (0-1) won the Class 5A championship but moved up this season to 6A, where they entered the weekend ranked No. 3. North Cobb is a Class 7A school that will face two more 2019 champions - Harrison and Marietta - during region play.

Singleton was 15-of-17 passing for 161 yards and a touchdown and ran for 93 yards and a score on 20 carries. Singleton, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore, played significant minutes in a backup role for much of last season but is now the unquestioned leader of the offense.

""Just managing the game, man, running the last six minutes off the clock, the last five minutes off the clock, staying in bounds," Queen said of Singleton’s improvement from last season. “Those are the things he’s maturing and getting better at. His teammates believe in him.”

Moss finished with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 10 receptions. His first touchdown, on an 11-yard catch with 2:46 remaining in the second quarter, provided the only points of the first half.

After Buford (0-1) tied the score on its first possession of the second half, Moss scored again to give North Cobb (2-0) the lead for good. Singleton threw a lateral to Trevor Lovett, a senior quarterback, who then passed to a wide-open Moss for a 31-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter.

But it was North Cobb’s defense that set the tone early. The Warriors held Buford to three plays and a punt on each of its first three possessions, and the Wolves didn’t record their first first down until an 8-yard run by Gabe Ervin with 1:34 remaining in the first half. Buford finished the half with 58 total yards and three first downs.

Things got better in the second half for the Wolves, who opened the third quarter with a 71-yard touchdown drive capped by Ervin’s 3-yard run to tie the score at 7-7.

North Cobb answered with touchdowns on its next two possessions to reclaim a 21-7 lead, but Buford answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive, cutting the lead to 21-14 on a 36-yard pass from Ashton Daniels to Jake Pope.

Buford had a chance to get back in it after forcing a punt on North Cobb’s next possession and getting the ball at their own 32 with 4:37 remaining in the game. But North Cobb’s defense stepped up again. On Buford’s third play, Nasir Howell intercepted a Daniels pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to put the game away.

Buford finished the game with 242 yards and was led by Ervin’s 86 yards rushing on 15 carries. Three quarterbacks combined to go 13-for-21 passing for 125 yards. The Wolves' 14 points were their fewest against a Georgia opponent since a 45-7 loss to Rome in the 2017 state semifinals.

It was a vast improvement for a North Cobb defense that allowed 30 points in a season-opening victory over Sprayberry last week.

“We got knocked around and bullied [last week], and we just challenged our kids,” Queen said. “To see them come back and work that hard and believe in the system. … We’ve got a new defensive coordinator [Mitch Henghold], and the kids are buying into what he’s doing. It took a couple of weeks to see that because we didn’t have spring ball, but if they’ll keep buying in we could be special. We’re not big, but I guarantee we’ve got a lot of heart.”

Buford - 0-0-7-7 - 14

North Cobb - 0-7-7-14 - 28

Second quarter

N - Christian Moss 11 pass from Malachi Singleton (Ben Moran kick), 2:46

Third quarter

B - Gabe Ervin 3 run (Alejandro Mata kick), 7:11

N - Moss 31 pass from Trevor Lovett (Moran kick), 3:23

Fourth quarter

N - Singleton 10 run (Moran kick), 10:28

B - Jake Pope 36 pass from Ashton Daniels (Mata kick), 6:00

N - Nasir Howell 46 interception return (Moran kick), 4:17

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