Buford quarterback Sam Clay (5) and wide receiver Cameron Gazaway (17) watch the trophy presentation in the Calhoun Yellow Jackets 27-24 overtime victory over the Buford Wolves in the GHSA State Finals at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.
Buford vs. Calhoun state title game highlights
Highlights from Buford's 27-24 overtime loss to Calhoun in the Class AA state title game on Dec. 9, 2011.
From the Class AA Championship
ATLANTA -- Nothing is guaranteed, especially in football.
Buford found that out the hard way on Friday.
The four-time defending state champions were expected to win an unprecedented fifth state title this season.
The Wolves rallied to force overtime against Calhoun in the Class AA state championship game at the Georgia Dome.
But a fumble by Buford and a field goal by Adam Griffith lifted the Yellow Jackets to a 27-24 victory. The win snapped a three-year losing streak to Buford in the state finals and gave Calhoun its first title since 1952.
"To beat a team like Buford, they are so much bigger and stronger than we are," Calhoun head coach Hal Lamb said. "It's what's inside the shoulder pads. Our kids have a lot of heart."
Buford won the last four state championships, had a 27-game winning streak and a lineup that featured seven Division I college commitments. That made the Wolves the heavy favorite to repeat this season.
"That's what we heard all year. It was our time this year," Hal Lamb said. "We had chances the last couple of years, but tonight we finally got it done."
Four fumbles, including one in overtime, helped give the Wolves (14-1) their first state finals loss since 2004.
"Our kids had a lot of confidence," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "That's what makes it harder. We haven't had a loss like this in a game like this in a while. It makes it a tough big pill to swallow."
Buford trailed 24-10 with 3:07 left in the game and scored two touchdowns in a 33-second span to force overtime.
Sam Clay threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Paris Head in the corner of the end zone to make it 24-17 with 1:12 left in the game. Buford failed to recover the onside kick, but used all of its timeouts to stop the clock. On fourth down, Andre Johnson blocked Zane Rhodes' punt. Dillon Lee, an Alabama commitment, picked up the ball and ran 40 yards for the game-tying touchdown.
"With two minutes to go, we're taking the headsets off thinking we're going to celebrate," Hal Lamb said. "We got a couple of penalties on a play and gave them new life."
Buford had the ball in the first overtime, but Johnson fumbled on the first play. The senior finished with 72 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Calhoun (15-0) didn't waste anytime, lining up to kick a 32-yard field goal by Griffith, an Alabama commitment, for the win.
"It's great. I don't know how to describe it," said Griffith, who was 4 of 5 on field goals with a long of 46 yards.
Calhoun came into the game with the highest scoring offense in the Class AA, averaging 45 points a game.
They were held to their lowest point total of the season, but it was also the most allowed by the Buford defense all year.
Rick LeGrant led the unit with seven tackles, one pass break up. Ryan Dillard had five tackles (one for loss) and two pass break ups. Jaylen Mize and C.J. Moore each had five tackles.
Buford and Calhoun traded missed field goals in the first quarter. Calhoun's Griffith missed a 41-yard field goal and Buford's David Petroni followed with a 43-yard miss.
Petroni, one of the state's top junior kickers, got a second chance to start the second quarter. He hit a 33-yard field goal to give Buford a 3-0 lead.
With the help of a personal foul penalty on the kickoff, Calhoun got the ball at the 46 and drove to the Buford 12. Griffith hit a 29-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 with 9:50 left in the half.
Buford threatened to score again when they drove to the Calhoun 11. Dontravious Wilson fumbled at the 4 and Calhoun's Tony Hernandez recovered.
"To win you have to keep from beating yourself," Simpson said. "We beat ourselves in different ways."
It was the second turnover of the half for Buford, who also fumbled the punt on the first series of the game.
The turnover set up Calhoun's 63-yard screen pass by Taylor Lamb to Darius Washington for a touchdown and a 10-3 lead. Calhoun never trailed again in the game.
On the next offensive play, C.J. Moore took the handoff around the right side for a 68-yard touchdown to tie the game 10-10 with 2:06 left in the half. Moore, a Virginia commitment, was the game's leading rusher 92 yards on six carries.
Calhoun regained the lead in the third quarter on a 15-yard run by quarterback Taylor Lamb. The junior and nephew of the head coach was 16 of 35 passing for 200 yards and had 55 yards rushing. Chase Rierson was the game's leading receiver with six catches for 57 yards.
"We knew he wanted to throw first, but he could run," Simpson said.
Calhoun converted a two-point conversion on the PAT to take an 18-10 lead.
Griffith kicked a 46-yard field goal and after C.J. Moore's fumble, hit from 37 yards with 3:07 left to give Calhoun a 24-10 lead.
Buford scored two touchdowns in the final minutes to tie the game, but couldn't complete the comeback in overtime."I'm just proud of how hard the kids fought. They hung in there," Simpson said.
"There was no way in the world we should have gone into overtime today. I have to tip my hat to our kids with the way they played and hung in there."