2019 will go down in the history books of the City of Buford and Buford High School as the year that we got a new high school, a new head football coach, and a new championship title. The 2019 football season is the stuff of legends. A first-year head coach got his first-ever state championship win, something most head coaches will never see in their entire career.
New head coach Bryant Appling had a tough task placed on him when he was promoted from assistant coach. Appling had one major advantage, he had trained with the legendary coaches of Buford’s storied past, Dexter Wood and Jess Simpson. He knew the “Buford Way.” Appling set about getting his team back to the basics of playing football the way Buford has been known to do.
The team earned confidence one game at a time beating powerful teams like last year’s AAAAAAA state championship team Milton, AAAAAAA Archer, and Virginia powerhouse Life Christian Academy. Coach Appling made it a habit of putting his less experienced players in games all season long so that if someone got injured those less experienced players would be able to step up and fill in the ranks. This would pay dividends later in the season.
Buford’s lone loss of the season came in the region championship game against Clarke Central.
Buford would travel over 900 miles during the final three playoff games leading up to the championship game. The Wolves had to knock off No. 1 seed Ware County (34-6), No. 1 ranked Carrollton (24-21), and No. 1 seed Jones County (29-0). These victories earned the Wolves the right to play Warner Robins for the GHSA Class AAAAA State Championship title at the Georgia State University stadium on December 13, 2019. If Buford won the game, it would be their first state title since 2014 and it’s first-ever in Class AAAAA.
The State Championship game would be anything but easy. Both teams had done their homework and knew how to defend against the other one. Buford couldn’t get their running game to pay off so a quarterback switch was made for Buford bringing in sophomore Ashton Daniels. It was this decision that allowed the Wolves to finally make progress. Jamarius Isaac would tie up the game with 27 seconds left on the clock, forcing the game into overtime. Senior kicker Hayden Olsen would nail a field goal in overtime winning a 12th State Championship title for Buford’s football team 17-14.
The Wolves would force Warner Robins to make some costly mistakes that Buford would capitalize on. Appling and his staff drill “effect the ball” into their defensive line; force the fumbles, put pressure on the quarterback, control the ball. Buford forced their opposition to fumble the ball 16 times during the season with some of the biggest ones coming in the postseason.
Appling says that so often teams don’t think about or work on the “third phase” of the game, their special teams. Buford’s special teams unit was instrumental in winning the title. From T. Lee returning kickoffs and punts to Olsen’s kicking abilities, the special teams got the job done. Coach Dasher and other coaching staff worked with the unit, came up with unique plays. In the game against Archer earlier in the season, facing another round of overtime, Appling decided to pull an old play out of their playbook, a two-point conversion play called the Forty Durden winning the game. It would be another gutsy call that would give Buford the edge over Carrollton. The team pulled off a fake punt with Olsen throwing the ball to Justice Johnson to keep the ball in Buford’s possession leading to the game-winning field goal from Olsen.
Buford’s ability to support the first-class program helped the team’s success. Appling claims that all of the extras that are provided their team all add up. The team being able to ride in nice charter buses to away games and them being able to find 20+ hotel rooms last minute in Valdosta to play Ware County meant that his players were well-rested and relaxed. The team purchased 20 new pairs of cleats because of concern over field conditions at Jones County. “Those cleats helped,” says Appling. “Jones County were slipping all over the field and we were not.”
Appling commends the Buford City Schools Central Office staff for being able to quickly make arrangements for the entire team. He says that all of the support given to them by the School Board, Administration, the high school, the athletic department and booster club, the students, and the entire Buford community means so much and is thankful for each and every one. Coach Appling gives a tremendous amount of credit to his incredible coaching staff who work closely with the players. “It’s a group effort,” he says.
This 12th State Championship title puts Buford second on the list of the most titles won by a single school behind Valdosta’s 24. This title also means that Buford has won a title in every classification that they have played in; Class A (1978 and 2001), Class AA (2002-03, 2007-10), Class AAA (2012-13), Class AAAA (2014), and now Class AAAAA (2019). Next year, the Wolves will have a chance to bring in a title in an all-new classification as they move up to Class AAAAAA.
Congratulations to Coach Appling, his staff, and his players on their State Championship win! Thank you for bringing home an early Christmas present to the City of Buford. Go Wolves!
— By Alicia Couch Payne
2019 BHS Football Roster
Seniors: T. Lee, Elijah Turner, Jamarius Isaac, Xalan Taylor, Javen Sadler, Justice Johnson, Jackson Powell, Julien Lewis, Ace Edwards, Ryan Rettenmeyer, Jason Roche, Jalen Huff, Daniel Benitez, Zac Jenkins, Elijah Olofintuyi, Nate Castleman, Dylan Akins, Carlton Holley, Evan DiMaggio, Kevin Vindel, Seth McLaughlin, Malone VanGorder, Hayden Olsen, Avery Siebrasse, and Jacob Price-Williams; Juniors: Amari Wansley, Brandon Castro, Malik Williams, Jarvis Evans Jr., Gabe Ervin Jr., Nick Perry, Boyd Farmer, Mason McCranie, Adrian Osorio, Brevin Striewe, Carson Garrison, Jake Hill, Jake Brittle, Timi Olawole, Carter Hamby, Caden Williams, Brett Rogers, Tommy Beuglas, Caleb Archer, Devon Birdwell, Matthew Alexandar, Nickolas King, Malik Cunningham, Will Coffey, Mack Green, Chad Maiseroulle, Ashton Martin, Jacob Smith, TJ Lowe, Cole Wright, Ben Thompson, Emmanuel Malala, and Treyton Rank; Sophomores: Jacob Galbraith, Ashton Daniels, Nathan Galbraith, William Harkness, Dylan Lesko, Isaiah Bond, Victor Venn, Victor Payne, Jake Pope, Nate Norys, Craig Clinkscales, Tobi Olawole, Ryland Gandy, Oscar Benitez, Malik Spencer, Aubrey Smith, Eli Parks, Ben Martin, River Wilson, Luis Saenz, Jackson Favors, Zachary Combs, Jaqwon Brown, Joseph Miller, Griffin Scroggs, Sho Mitchell, Zach Pacheco, James Gonzalez, Dawson Andrew, Jayvion Sims, Christhoper Rinker, Zachary Salo, Davis Peek, Carson Perry, Jackson Perry, Josiah Wyatt, Machkye Sheffield, and Alejandro Mata; Freshmen: Dylan Wittke, Jack Damron, Ian Chandler, Trevor Gutierrez, AJ Bonds, Elijah Williams, Cristian Butler, and Eli McElwaney
Coaching Staff: Bryant Appling (head coach), JJ Chatmon, Stuart Chester, Gus Condon, Drew Dasher, Fyrone Davis, Sean Gilbert, Andre Johnson, Justin Johnson, Ronald King, Devonte Mack, Kyle Manley, Dicky May, Michael May, Bryan Rogers, David Snell, Berry Walton, and Matt Winslette; Athletic Trainers: Chris Demaline, Marrisa Caldwell, and Melissa Hopfensberger; Student Trainers: Isabella Ascenzo, Karle Earl, Jordan Garrison, Courtney Martin, Julia Montville, and Bree Smith; Student Managers: Natalee Bryant, Garrett Foster, Trinity Gantt, Trinity Harling, Nya Howard, Samuel Morris, Caiden Nantz, Ella Patterson, and Samantha Sarver
Buford’s 2019 Season Game Results
Overall Record: 14-1
8/30 vs. Jonesboro W 41-0
9/6 at Milton W 26-23
9/13 vs. Life Christian Academy (Va.) W 33-22
9/20 vs. Newton W 42-14
9/27 vs. Archer W 29-28 (OT)
10/4 at Johnson (Gainesville) W 56-7
10/11 vs. Cedar Shoals W 31-13
10/18 vs. Loganville W 30-7
11/1 at Walnut Grove W 49-0
11/8 at Clarke Central (Region Final) L 31-28
11/15 vs. Decatur W 43-6
11/22 at Ware County W 34-6
11/29 at Carrollton W 24-21
12/6 at Jones County W 29-0
12/13 vs. Warner Robins** W 17-14 (OT)
* * GHSA Class AAAAA State Championship Game played at Georgia State University’s stadium in Atlanta.