published Friday, December 9th, 2011

Calhoun-Buford state final capsule

BUFORD WOLVES (14-0) vs. CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (14-0)

When: Today, 4:30 p.m. in the Georgia Dome

Coaches, records: Buford's Jess Simpson is 96-14 and has taken the Wolves to four consecutive state championships; Calhoun's Hal Lamb is 147-43 and has taken the Yellow Jackets to four state championship games.

Last meeting: Buford won 31-24 in overtime in the 2010 Class AA state final.

How they got here: Second-ranked Calhoun defeated Jefferson 39-6, Brooks County 43-30, Dublin 45-7 and Appling County 51-14. Top-ranked Buford defeated Temple 49-13, Jefferson County 31-0, Elbert County 49-13 and Columbus Carver 28-13.

The key: Can Calhoun control a physical, aggressive Buford front seven? No other team has come close, and for the Jackets' quick-paced spread attack to be effective, quarterback Taylor Lamb has to stay upright. Coach Lamb isn't afraid to play field position and let his equally effective defense set the tone. That defense has to force the Wolves into passing situations and cannot miss assignments, because Buford is adept at pulling off misdirection and trick plays.

Players to watch: Buford has as many as six Division I seniors, including two-way lineman Vadal Alexander (6-foot-6, 334), who is headed to LSU, and tight end and defensive end Kurt Freitag (6-5, 241), who is Alabama-bound. Most of the talent resides on a defense that also includes linebackers Dillon Lee (6-5, 240) and Nathan Staub (6-3, 227), pass-rushing end Rick LeGrant and experienced backs Ryan Dillard and Paris Head. Two players without NCAA Division I offers, quarterback Sam Clay and running back and linebacker Andre Johnson, are as important as any of the others.

For Calhoun, quarterback Lamb has thrown for 14 touchdowns in the four playoff games and runs the offense, and he has a bevy of threats on the outside, including cousin Ben Lamb, Clay Johnson, Chase Rierson and Josh Barnes. The biggest development of recent games is the emergence of running backs Alex Urbano and Tydus Curtis to complement starter Darius Washington. Those three also will be key in protecting Lamb against continual blitzing. Defensively, Calhoun doesn't have the star power of its opponent, but this unit has been just as effective behind the aggressive play of end Reed Allen and lineackers Alex Kirby, Hunter Knight, Gabe Freeman and Trent Frix.

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