Rome’s stellar defense saved its best for the last and quarterback Knox Kadum rescued an injury ravaged offense to help the No. 4-ranked Wolves take down No. 1 Buford 16-7 on Friday to claim the Class AAAAA championship at the Georgia Dome, the first in school history.
Rome held Buford to 112 total yards, an average of 2.5 yards per play, and eight first downs. The definitive moment came when Rome stopped Buford’s Christian Turner on fourth-and-inches with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
It was the eighth time Rome has held an opponent to single-digit points.
"We did a ton of film study," Rome coach John Reid said. "We did a ton of preparation. Our coaches, the scout team really prepared. They did some different things, like we thought they would. Thought we'd make them pass the ball and they had some success with it, But they also got wore out. We just kept pressuring them."
Rome (13-2) got an outstanding game from Kadum. The sophomore ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on a 28-yard option up the middle to put the Wolves ahead 10-7 with 9:47 left in the third quarter. He put the game by scoring on an 18-yard naked bootleg on a fourth-and-inches situation with 1:12 remaining.
"A lot of guys may be a little bit bigger and maybe a little more talented physically, but none of them have a bigger heart than him," Reid said.
Rome, which was already without 1,000-yard rusher Jalynn Sykes, lost its other 1,000-yard rusher, Jamious Griffin, to a knee injury in the second quarter. Griffin had 25 yards on seven carries when he was hurt. Marquez Kirby (eight carries for 37 yards) and freshman Nick Burge (10 carries for 26 yards) filled in ably.
"That’s the kind of kids we’ve got. We don’t make excuses around here," Reid said. "We put the next guy out there and he’s expected to get the job done because we expect that at practice every day."
Buford (13-2) lost in the final for the second straight year. The Wolves were stifled on offense all night. Christian Turner (11 carries for 36 yards) and Anthony Grant (11 for 33 yards) were never able to get free. Quarterback Mic Roof completed only 8 of 19 for 51 yards and was sacked four times.
"It didn't matter who you were running against them this year," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "The last eight weeks nobody did. People who scored on them, scored on them early in the year."
Buford scored quickly to start the game. Grant took the opening kickoff 94 yards to the 1 and T.D. Roof ran it in on the next play.
The rest of the half was a defensive struggle. Rome took it away when Adam Anderson stripped Roof of the ball and K.J. Hicks recovered. But Buford regained possession on the next play when Chee Anyanwu intercepted Kadum on the final play of the first quarter.
Rome’s offense finally got started on its next turn. The Wolves drove from the 14 to the 7 before settling on a 24-yard Emanual Gonzalez field goal with 3:36 left in the half.
Rome forced Buford to punt and rushed downfield to the Buford 32 before Kadum was intercepted again by Anyanwu before the end of the half.