Daily Dive: Two Storied Programs Face Off In A National Matchup On Friday Night

Two storied programs face off for the first time ever in a highly anticipated quarterfinal matchup between two nationally ranked teams No. 16 Buford and No. 43 Grayson, according to MaxPreps. Both teams have combined for a total of 17 state championships.

Grayson has three state championships and Buford has 14 state championships in school history. Buford last won a state title in 2021 and won three consecutive championships from 2019-2021. Grayson won a state championship in 2020, defeating Collins Hill 38-14.

Grayson and Buford come in loaded with Division 1 talent on both sides of the ball. The Rams have four-star tight end Kylan Fox (Central Florida-commit), three-star wide receiver John Cineas, and three-star quarterback JD Davis.

Davis has thrown for 2,597 yards and 32 touchdowns. Fox and Cineas have combined for 15 receiving touchdowns in 2023, and Cineas is only 65 yards away from a 1,000-yard season. Both Fox and Cineas pose matchup problems for any defense. Fox is a great receiving tight end that can make plays after the catch and is a great red-zone target. Cineas can win the 50-50 ball but can also beat you in the short passing game if you don’t wrap him up. Cineas was clocked at 22.2 MPH in their last game against North Paulding, and you can see the speed on offense and in the return game. He has returned two kickoffs for a touchdown this season.

Defensively for Grayson, they have one of the best players in the country in five-star Tyler Atkinson who leads the team in tackles with 160 and seven sacks. One of his most memorable plays this season came in a vital region game against Archer. Atkinson was trailing on the play but came out of nowhere fast and dislodged the football. That moment helped stifle the momentum Archer was building. It was probably one of the best plays you will see a high school football player make.

Buford has the No.1 quarterback in the country in Dylan Raiola (Georgia-commit) who has had a stellar senior season passing for 2,359 yards and 30 touchdowns. The Wolves also have five-star standout KJ Bolden (Florida State-commit), who is outstanding on both sides of the ball. Bolden is a rangy, ball-hawking safety who can deliver a big hit defensively. On offense, he is a dynamic playmaker that can make defenders miss in the open field and turn any play into a big one. Bolden leads the team in receiving yards (568) and touchdowns (11).

Defensively, Buford has five-star defensive lineman Eddrick Houston (Ohio State commit), five-star defensive lineman Bryce Perry Wright, four-star linebacker Jadon Perlotte (Georgia commit), and four-star linebacker Mantrez Walker. The Buford defense is loaded. The Rams have produced seven shutouts this season, four coming in their last five games. Buford has a good mix of veterans and young talent on their roster. The defense has been one of the units for Buford.

This matchup will come down to the trenches.

Both teams have outstanding lines filled with power-five talent. The key will be which offensive line can hold up against these stout defensive fronts, and who will be most successful at creating lanes in the ground game. With so much talent and college prospects on the field, execution will be another critical component of this game. The smallest thing can make a big difference especially in playoff football. The team that executes the best will win on Friday night and punch their ticket into the semifinals. For both elite programs, that would be one step in the right direction of the ultimate goal of winning a state championship.

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