Semifinals Preview: Class AAA

Rob Saye

Buford vs. Callaway

Callaway will travel to Buford Friday to play the top-ranked Wolves who have been obliterating teams thus far in the playoffs. Buford is the defending state AAA champion and has won five titles in the past six years. Head coach Jess Simpson is in pursuit of his sixth state title with Buford and has only lost 18 games in his nine seasons with the Wolves.

The Cavs have not won a state championship in the school’s brief 16-year history. Head coach Michael Wiggins has had his team focused this year as they’ve only lost one game, a loss early in the season to Harris County. Both teams had impressive quarterfinal victories. Buford was able to down Carver-Columbus 36-6 while Callaway beat St. Pius X 35-21.

Buford’s defense has been relentless all year, including last week when the Wolves forced three turnovers including an interception returned for a touchdown. Special teams were also on display as the Wolves were able to block a punt for great field position. Buford defender

Evyn Cooper was able to run back a fumble for a touchdown. Wolves quarterback Taylor Mitchell took care of things on the offensive side of the ball with a rushing and passing touchdown in the quarterfinal.

Callaway’s defense was also impressive this year as it didn’t allow more than three touchdowns in any of its regular season games while its offense averaged 37 points a game. Buford turned the ball over four times in its last game, the most of the season. If fifth-ranked Callaway has any chance of winning, it will have to take the ball away often. Callaway has only played Buford once in the playoffs and that was a 52-14 shellacking in the second round en route to Buford winning its fourth state title in a row in 2010.


Ringgold vs. Washington County

Washington County will host Ringgold in the other AAA semifinal matchup, and according to GHSFA, this will be the first meeting between the two teams. The Golden Hawks are hoping to continue their run to their first state championship since 1997. The school has won three titles since opening in 1955 and head coach Joel Ingram has “WaCo” on track to contend for its fourth.

Ringgold has never won the state title in its 69-year history, but coach Robert Akins hopes to keep the Tigers’ improbable run alive. Washington County, the second-ranked team in AAA behind Buford, will depend on Melvin Hill who rushed for 202 yards and five touchdowns in the Golden Hawks win against Blessed Trinity last Friday.

On the other side of the ball Ringgold will have to worry about a very impressive defense led by D.J. Sanders, who managed to pick off four passes in his last game. Ringgold is the Cinderella of the tournament as it is the only team left that was unranked going into the playoffs. After winning a thrilling 55-54 contest against North Hall, Ringgold posted back-to-back routs and has beaten its opponents by a combined 50 points in games against Cedar Grove and Central-Carroll. Ringgold will hope that quarterback Slade Dale will be good to go Friday after suffering a leg injury late in the first half of the game against Central-Carroll. Dale was able to score two touchdowns before missing the entire second half due to the injury.

The Tigers will hope to upset Washington County as they continue this unbelievable run, but they’ll have to slow down a productive Golden Hawks offense which has scored 36 points or more in every game so far this year. Ringgold was able to recover a fumble and intercept a pass against Central-Carroll and it will take that kind of an effort to win Friday.

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