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BUFORD – The defending Class AA state football champion Central Eagles visited Buford High with heart-felt concerns for their gridiron opponent Friday night and left with an unassuming 35-0 win over the host Yellow Jackets.
The Yellow Jackets took the field just 26 hours after the tragic death of fellow classmate and football player Seth Muennich, a freshman member of the Buford High junior varsity football team.
Muennich died late Thursday afternoon after he was struck by a car in the area not far from Buford’s Jackets Stadium.
“This is tough tonight for all of us.” Buford High head coach Mike Wells said. “Seth’s parents asked us to play the game, so we are all here for Seth.”
A heavy air of grief filled the early fall night air before kickoff as both teams gathered at midfield to lay a hand on one another as a show of comfort and support.
Muennich’s memory was obvious as the Jackets wore No. 53 stickers on their helmets and Buford cheerleaders had No. 53 painted on their faces.
Muennich’s No. 53 was also painted on the field.
It took the first period for both teams to settle into the game, as the teams exchanged punts on their first two possessions and the quarter ended in a scoreless tie.
Central High’s first of five touchdowns came with 9:15 left in the second quarter when Eagles junior quarterback Jalen Covington connected on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Debias Tyson to put the first points on the board.
After the missed extra point, Central held a 6-0 lead.
Central forced four Buford turnovers, and capitalized on three.
The first coming after a Buford High fumble at its 14-yard line.
Central, 4-2, punched it in three plays later on a two-yard run by Montez Seegars.
Tyson added the two-point conversion and Central led 14-0 with 8:06 left in the second quarter.
After another Buford fumble, Central padded its lead when Tevus Funderburk muscled his way into the end zone on a tough one-yard run.
Joseph Rollings added the extra point to give Central a 21-0 lead at the half.
“We knew Central had a big offensive line,” Wells said. “We wanted to stop their running game, but they just beat us off the ball. They are just a lot bigger and stronger up front.”
Buford’s fourth turnover of the night resulted in a six-play, 50-yard scoring drive for Central.
CHS senior fullback Ryheem Lockhart finished the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run and Rollings added the extra point to put Central up, 28-0 with 7:50 left in the third quarter.
“It was tough for us to concentrate tonight. We made some mental mistakes and gave a short field to a very talented football team.” Wells said. “We have to keep plugging away and get better with each week.
“We’re looking toward next week and maybe finding a since of normalcy.” Wells said. “C.J. Blackmon, at quarterback, is playing well for us.
“Each week he shows signs of improvement at the quarterback position,” he said.
Central’s final score came on a Tyson three-yard run and Rollings’ extra point for the 35-0 win.
At the end of the game, the teams gathered once more at midfield to pray and reflect on Seth.
Buford team chaplain Brandon Helms, of Spring Hill Church, prayed with the players and ended with a, “Seth on Three.”
“One, two, three, Seth,” the players shouted.
The Buford vs. Central game statistics were incomplete at press time. See Wednesday’s paper.