Buford beats Calhoun in overtime for fourth straight title

Buford continues to make history in the state championship game, and the Wolves keep finding new ways to do it.

Playing in the first overtime state championship game in GHSA history, Buford got a 9-yard touchdown run from Dominique Swope in the extra period to beat Calhoun 31-24 in the Class AA final Friday at the Georgia Dome. It was the fourth consecutive title for the Wolves, making them the second team in state history to win four in a row, joining the West Rome teams from 1982-1985. The championship also makes Buford the only team to win seven championships in a 10-year span.

“These kids on both teams made play after play after play and kept hanging in there and hanging in there,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said. “We were just lucky to come out on top. It feels great [to win four straight], but it’s really more about this year’s seniors and this football team. It’s really about right now and what these kids have done this year.”

Calhoun failed to score on its overtime possession when Landon Curtis’ fourth-down pass was incomplete.

Despite leading by 14 points in the game’s first four minutes and by 17 midway through the third quarter, the Wolves never could put Calhoun away. Alex Ross, who was 9-for-9 for 102 yards in the first half, threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kurt Freitag to give Buford a seemingly comfortable 24-7 lead with 8:20 to play in third quarter.

That’s when Calhoun’s offense came alive. The Yellow Jackets responded with a five-play, 50-yard drive that cut the lead to 24-14 on Dustin Christian’s 8-yard run. Chase Rierson pulled Calhoun within three points with 7:44 remaining in the game when he caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Curtis, setting the stage for a dramatic final few minutes.

Calhoun took possession at the Buford 43 with 2:35 to play and drove to the 26 in six plays. Facing a fourth-and-13, Calhoun called on kicker Adam Griffith, who kicked a 45-yard field goal to tie the game with 10 seconds remaining in regulation. It was the fifth-longest field goal in a state final.

The disappointment of the loss was apparent from the tears on Calhoun coach Hal Lamb’s face as he emerged from the locker room following his post-game talk with his team. It was the Yellow Jackets’ third consecutive loss to Buford in the championship game, each one perhaps more agonizing than the one before. Buford won the previous meetings 45-21 in 2008 and 13-10 last year.

“We’re proud of our football team,” Lamb said. “You know, not many people gave us a chance to be here, and I’m sure there were doubters when we were down 24-7. But our kids kept fighting and kept fighting and showed a lot of heart and character. When Adam kicked that field goal, I really thought it was our night, and then it just gets ripped away from you in a matter of 10 minutes.”

Calhoun – 0-7-7-10-0 – 24

Buford – 14-3-7-0-7 – 31

B – Seon Jones 4 run (David Petroni kick)

B – Ryan Dillard 57 fumble return (Petroni kick)

C – Dustin Christian 3 run (Adam Griffith kick)

B – Petroni 28 field goal

B – Alex Ross 24 pass to Kurt Freitag (Petroni kick)

C – Christian 8 run (Griffith kick)

C – Landon Curtis 31 pass to Chase Rierson (Griffith kick)

C – Griffith 45 field goal

B – Dominique Swope 9 run (Petroni kick)