In the end there was just too much Christian Turner for Carrollton to handle.
Buford’s junior tailback rushed 17 times for 276 yards and four two touchdowns – two of them on runs of 73 and 89 yards – to help the No. 1-ranked Wolves (12-1) hang on to beat No. 3 Carrollton 34-27 on Friday in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
“I’m sure he’s going to give credit to his O-line and high tight ends and backs for blocks, but he made a few special runs tonight,” Buford coach Jess Simpson said.
The game went down the wire. Carrollton (11-2) got one last opportunity when it recovered a fumble at the Buford 48 with 1:15 remaining. But the Trojans suffered an illegal formation penalty, then got put deep in the whole on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after an incomplete pass.
The Buford defense, aided by the return of lineman Zac Waters, who missed two weeks with a hip pointer, threw up a stop sign and the Wolves advanced to the Class AAAAA semifinals to play Kell.
“I knew we would (give them everything we had),” Carrollton coach Sean Calhoun said. “That’s the Carrollton way. That’s our kids.”
Buford quarterback Mic Roof completed 7 of 15 passes for 104 yards. Anthony Grant, the team’s leading rusher, gained only 36 yards, but he had an exceptional defensive game with four tackles and two sacks.
Carrollton’s offense was led by quarterback Mark Wright, who completed 15 of 28 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 41 yards and one touchdown. Jaylan Thomas rushed for 45 yards caught a touchdown pass.
Buford scored on its first two possessions of the second half, Turner on a 26-yard run and again on a 31-yard run, to take a 27-13 lead. But the Wolves could never really shake Carrollton, which scored on a 16-yard pass from Mark Wright to Jaylan Thomas.
“We were not going to give up,” Calhoun said. “That’s not in our vocabulary.”
The Wolves responded with a touchdown, this one a 13-yard run by T.D. Roof, to go ahead 34-27. But Carrollton made it a one-score game on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Wright to Thomas Culwell.
Buford appeared to have the game won when Carrollton punted with 1:37 left. The Wolves picked up a first down, but gave the Trojans life when T.D. Roof lost a fumble. That’s when the defense dug in and denied Carrollton’s upset bid.
The two teams were tied 13-13 at halftime.
Carrollton scored first after Reid Dedman blocked a punt and Tyler Harper recovered for the Trojans at the Buford 21. Carrollton settled for a 32-yard field goal by Sam Barge.
Buford answered with a touchdown when Turner broke through for a 73-yard run on the second play. But the kick by Brian Burgos sailed wide left and Buford led 6-3 with 4:58 left in the first period.
Carrollton couldn’t move on its next possession and punted Buford deep at the 7. On third-and 16 from the 11, Turner took off around the right end and turned upfield for an 89-yard touchdown and a 13-3 lead.
Buford had a chance to run away after it stuffed the Carrollton punter for a 16-yard loss and took over at the 31. But the Carrollton defense dug in and Buford turned the ball over on downs at the 28.
The Trojans responded by driving to the 9, where Barge kicked a 26-yard field goal.
Carrollton tied it after another mistake by the Buford kicking game. Buford punter Nick Chmielowicz dropped a poor snap and never had time to recover. The Trojans swarmed him for a 17-yard loss and took over at the 16.
Carrollton was able to punch it in in five plays, with Wright scoring on a 1-yard keeper. The quarterback had picked up the first down on the previous play when he picked up 5 on a fourth-and-1.