Posted: Tuesday, December 9th 2008 at 5:00am
Dome-bound: Opinion -- Wolves refusal to look back a big key in '08
By Morgan Lee Editor
Buford running back Cody Getz smiles after the Wolves defeated Fitzgerald 44-21 last Friday to clinch a spot in the Class AA championship game this week in Atlanta. / photo: David McGregor, Photographic Arts
BUFORD -- Comparison can be a dangerous thing -- especially in sports.
Teams that try to live up to their predecessors -- especially those that have won at the highest level -- are playing with fire and often find themselves frustrated and wondering where all the success went.
The key for success -- outside of raw talent -- lies in creating a new identity each season and playing to that identity while aiming for the brass ring.
Buford football understands and displays this attitude perhaps better than any other program in the state.
No matter what has happened in the past in the Wolves program, you will never hear -- from a player or coach -- about outdoing a particular Buford team, overtaking a team or individual record or wondering how to make up for the loss of a particular player or group of players.
And guess what? That attitude seems to work just fine.
Of course talent always helps. But if talent were the only requirement for winning, there would be far more variety in the state champions out there and far fewer programs like Buford that seem to hold monopolies on success.
And, by the way, that success is unparalleled over the past decade.
The Wolves have won four state titles since the dawn of the new millennium (2001, ’02, ’03 and ’07) and played in six championship contests -- about to be seven. They are also just one win shy of tying the record for most wins in a decade with 124. Valdosta holds the record of 125 from 1980-89. Should Buford (14-0) defeat Calhoun (12-2) Friday in the Class AA title match at the Georgia Dome, the Wolves would tie the record with a full season left to play in this decade.
And yet, you’ll never hear one single word about that around the Buford fieldhouse this week.
What you will hear is plenty of excitement and intensity about playing for another state title just one year removed from perhaps the best team the Wolves have ever fielded. Last year’s Buford squad absolutely dominated by flattening teams by an average score of 45-4. It also sent six players to Division I scholarships. It won its final and semifinal playoff games -- the two toughest games a team should play -- by a combined score of 98-0.
Talk about leaving a burden for those that follow.
But instead of worrying about how they could ever live up to that amazing 2007 team, the Wolves simply bowed their necks, went back to work, and now sit just one game removed from doing exactly what last year’s team did: finish 15-0 with a state title.
Buford coach Jess Simpson will quickly admit that this year’s team is not talented as last year’s squad, but in the same breath, he’ll point out that its hard work and determination has made up for any shortcomings.
A quick glance at the stats reveals just that. Buford is still rolling over opponets this season, winning by an average score of 40-8 and is outgaining teams by almost 150 yards per contest.
And a longer look during last Friday’s 44-21 semifinal win over Fitzgerald revealed a Buford team dominant in key areas: the line of scrimmage, running back and special teams.
By the way, there is still plenty of talent at Buford in players like Dallas Lee (a offensive/defensive lineman committed to the University of Georgia), Kolton Houston and Storm Johnson (both juniors who are already being heavily recruited).
It’s the fact that the Wolves refused to worry about comparing their accomplishments this season with last year’s.
“We put last year to bed as soon as we got to work on this season,” Simpson told Access North Georgia a few weeks ago.
And once the cheering dies down on Saturday -- no matter the outcome -- you can bet this season, championship or not, will be put to bed, and the Wolves will be staring 2009 dead in the face.
And the next group of Wolves won’t be worried about comparisons to 2008; they’ll be ready to find their own championship identity.
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