Drive for the GHSA State Title: Buford and North Cobb set for top 10 clash

North Cobb comes into this matchup 1-0 after its 21-17 victory against Westlake and eyes to make another run at the state crown after seeing its championship hopes end in the second round last season with Roswell’s thrilling 46-43 victory. North Cobb is returning three guys who have been three-year starters on the offensive line. Making its Class 7A debut this season, Buford is also gearing up for a championship run and comes in at 2-0 after a 56-7 victory against Mallard Creek. Buford is a three-time defending state champion and is looking to take home the programs’ 15th all-time state crown. North Cobb is 3-1 all-time against Buford. Buford won this matchup last year 35-27 in the Corky Kell Classic. North Cobb jumped out to a 14-point lead early in the 1st half, but had three turnovers in the 3rd quarter that breathed life into Buford and led to their victory.

Both head coaches Shane Queen for North Cobb and Bryant Appling previewed the matchup on Friday night.

“We have a really big test this week with North Cobb. They are a talented bunch,” said Appling. “We played three years in a row. We know what they bring to the table.”

“Obviously, it is a great challenge. I told our kids if it is anybody that can play with them in this state, it’s us,” said Queen. “They are well coached again and very physical. You have to get movement. You have to be happy with a 4 yard play. You have to take what they give you.”

Two players to keep an eye on in this matchup for both teams is QB Malachi Singleton, an AJC Super 11 player and Arkansas commit. Justice Haynes, an AJC Super 11 running back and Alabama commit. Both opposing coaches raved about them and the problem they can pose for defenses.

“Malachi is a great kid and a great player. Every time I have shaken his hand after the game he’s very respectful,” said Appling. “His feet are just as much a weapon as his arm. He is a big guy too. He is fast and powerful. We definitely have to keep extra eyes on him.”

“He is a very physical runner. You have to gang tackle and get a lot of people to the ball,” said Queen. “He is going to make you miss some and he is going to run through some tackles. You can’t arm tackle. You have to put a hat on him.”

Both teams have faced their own challenges throughout the year and have been putting extra time and effort to ensure it doesn’t get in the way. Buford has a lot of youth on their roster and wants to ensure everyone gets reps. North Cobb put emphasis on the defense and cleaning up some of their mistakes from their week 1 win against Westlake.

“We had two many self-inflicted wounds. We had some mistakes on offense that put us behind the chains. I didn’t think we tackled as well as we are coached to,” said Queen, “First thing we did was meet at 6:30 am Monday morning. We did a tackling circuit and put extra emphasis on it this week.They have a lot of skill players we have to tackle well. If we don’t, it is going to be a long night for us.”

“We have a lot of guys battling for positions, battling for snaps and as coaches we have to do a good job of making sure everybody is ready,” said Appling. “With youth, you want those guys to get as many reps as possible. Not knowing who is the guy you gotta keep them involved in practice and make sure they are getting the mental reps as well as the physical reps when their time comes. We’ve had in the first two games about 15 different starters on defense and counting the scrimmage about 14-15 on offense.”

Friday night should be a compelling match between both of these teams. North Cobb is focusing on getting better each day and every week and using games like this to improve while Buford has set a standard in place that has allowed them to be three time defending state champs and a nationally recognized program.

“Giving our best effort and getting better every week. I feel like last year we were playing very well,” said Queen. “You let one game slip up and we didn’t give our best effort against Roswell last year and lost..Non region games are gauntlets like the SEC. I want to see us improve every week.”

“We have one standard for everything and it kind of encompasses every aspect of our program, whether it is in the classroom, weight room, or on the field,” said Appling. “Doing everything exactly right, being role models for the little kids in the community and a role model for your teammates. We talk about the little things all the time like picking up trash in the hallway. Those little things and being good people will take you a long way even in a 4th quarter war against a really good football team. You can go back to those things and they will help you suck up your guts and make plays when you need to make plays.

Buford vs North Cobb will be live on Peachtree TV and you can stream on the CBS 46 app.



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