When South Pointe’s Strait Herron arrived at a Nike-sponsored high school football coaches symposium last year in Oregon, one of the first people he saw was Buford (Ga.) coach John Ford. A promoter had tried to get Buford and South Pointe together for a game the previous year, but, after a quick online research project on the powerful Buford program, Herron declined.
“We don’t need to play them,” he remembers thinking.
This year, South Pointe did need to play Buford. Both teams - powerhouses in their respective states - struggle to schedule games. Herron and Ford realized they both had similar openings on their 2017 schedule and put the wheels in motion. And like that, a high school football game worthy of national attention was born. Here’s 10 things to know about the South Pointe-Buford matchup:
▪ South Pointe is ranked eighth in the country by USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings and while Buford isn’t currently ranked, the Wolves are a better known national entity than the Stallions. Eleven-time Georgia state champion Buford is 58-4 since 2013 and is 9-0 all-time against teams from outside of Georgia. National awareness of South Pointe would increase if the Stallions pull off a road win Friday.
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“We know what we’re in for,” said Herron. “Just being able to play this kind of game, the caliber of talent that will be on the field, that’s what excites me most. This is about as close to college as some of these guys will get.”
▪ Buford is paying South Pointe $17,000 to travel to Georgia for Friday’s football game, according to an agreement between the two schools obtained by The Herald. Buford and South Pointe were originally going to play in Rock Hill but switched the game site to Buford after administrators from that school district balked at the travel. Buford agreed to pay South Pointe what it would lose monetarily by not hosting the home game.
It’s not yet clear how that money will be divvied up by South Pointe’s athletic department, but should mean that the trip to Georgia results in a net gain for the Stallion athletic coffers.
▪ South Pointe will leave Rock Hill around noon Friday on charter buses. The group will stop to eat at Golden Corral in Anderson, S.C., then continue on to Buford. The Stallions will play the game, eat a postgame meal and then return to Rock Hill that same night.
▪ Both teams should be well rested. South Pointe had a bye last week, while Buford last played on Aug. 28. The Wolves’ game against Broward, Fla.’s International School last week was canceled because of Hurricane Irma and they had a bye the previous week.
▪ Buford is loaded and any drooling over its beautiful roster begins with running back tandem of Christian Turner and Anthony Grant. Turner, committed to Michigan, and Grant, committed to Tennessee, may be the best pair that South Pointe has faced in its 11 years of football. Turner leads Buford with 254 yards and three TDs on 23 carries (11 yards per pop), and Grant also gets some touches; he starts at linebacker and returns kickoffs and punts too.
Both players stood out during South Pointe’s film study this week, Grant especially.
“Holy cow. That dude’s trying to kill people every time the ball is snapped,” Herron joked.
Learn more about Buford football from Gwinnett Daily Post reporter David Friedlander:
▪ Every good run game starts with a dominant offensive line and Buford appears to have one. The Wolves unquestionably have size up front, led by juniors Carter Colquitt (6-foot-6, 295 pounds), who has offers from Clemson, Oregon, Florida and many other schools, and Riley Simonds (6-foot-4, 290), who holds offers from Alabama and a slew of other college powerhouses. The Wolves have run the ball 77 times in two games, compared to 44 passes. They’re averaging 7.7 yards per carry, thanks in part to the large immovable objects on the o-line.
South Pointe’s defense hasn’t allowed more than 90 yards rushing in any of its three games this season.
▪ There will be an uncommon amount of college-level football talent on the field Friday night. Buford’s college-committed players include Turner and Grant, safety Bryson Richardson (North Carolina), receiver Isaiah Isaac (Wake Forest), defensive back Mikey McMorris (Navy) and outside linebacker Brock Mattison (Appalachian State). South Pointe brings Clemson commits Derion Kendrick and B.T. Potter, Virginia Tech commit Eli Adams, James Madison commit Jamari Currence and Steven Gilmore Jr., who is scheduled to announce his college commitment between North Carolina, Georgia and Louisville on Sunday.
▪ Neither of those lists count the numerous guys on both teams with FBS offers from smaller schools that are either younger or still under the radar. It’s perfectly feasible that the player with the biggest influence on Friday’s outcome isn’t one of the ones listed above. South Pointe receiver Scott Robinson Jr. stepped up big-time in the playoffs for the Stallions last season; his only offer is from S.C. State. And the Stallions’ 6-foot-4, 200-pound safety/receiver B.J. Davis may be one of the best long-term prospects on the field; he has offers from Indiana State, Northern Iowa, S.C. State and a few other schools. That list could grow with a standout performance at Buford.
How do South Pointe and Buford stack up?
▪ South Pointe’s offense has steadily improved since Kendrick took over for Greg Ruff as the Stallions’ QB last season. Kendrick is doing two things less often: forcing throws with his powerful arm into contested situations, and dancing around behind the line of scrimmage and eliciting holding penalties from his offensive line or taking big yardage losses. Kendrick is playing within the system more often and picking up positive yardage when he scrambles.
Herron gave major credit for Kendrick’s improvement to the talented offensive line and skill position players South Pointe has, and to offensive coordinator Jason McManus, who Herron compared to his high school basketball coach at Northwestern, Wayne Flowers.
“McManus does a great job because every day it’s the same,” said Herron. “You don’t just go out there and make up things as you go. There is a systematic way of coaching and that’s what (McManus) does. Same thing every single day. If you want to be great at something you do it over and over again. I think that’s key to what’s helped D.K. develop.”
▪ One area where Buford will not match South Pointe: kicker. senior B.T. Potter has been a well-discussed weapon for the Stallions as the starting kicker and punter on each of the three state title teams.
“Not that their kicker is bad. Next year I’d love to have him,” said Herron. “But having B.T. could definitely be big.”