BUFORD, Ga. -- The powerhouse Buford High School program in northeast Georgia is known for smashmouth football and state titles. In fact, the Wolves had not lost a regular season home game since the 2000 season. That streak came to an end Friday night against Gainesville (Ga.) despite the best efforts of Georgia offensive line commit Josh Cardiello, who played both ways for Buford.
“It was hard,” Cardiello said. “You have to fight cramping and stuff. You can’t come out whenever you want. You are not going to be fresh the whole game -- you just have to go. You are one of the leaders on the team so you have to make plays. I just try to forget about it and just play.”
Cardiello’s cramping didn’t show. He consistently drove defenders backwards when playing left tackle and spent a lot of time in the Gainesville backfield when he lined up at defensive tackle. He can thank an old-fashioned cramp remedy for his performance.
“It got pretty bad in the fourth quarter but I drank some pickle juice and I was good to go,” Cardiello said. “You got to do what you got to do.”
Pickle juice wasn’t the only elixir that kept Cardiello in the game. He is also leaner and meaner and has developed a nastier punch than he had last year.
“I have been working a lot on that,” Cardiello said. “We have worked on advancing my game and getting me ready for the college. I am getting a lot better in aspects like that. I have been trying real hard to work on my punch and on my leverage.”
With the meaner part checked off, Cardiello turned to the leaner part.
“I am playing at 283 pounds right now and I think that is helping me play faster,” Cardiello said. “And playing both sides of the ball means you have to play fast or you are going to get a loaf, and I don’t need those.”
It was the Gainesville offensive line that needed a breather after trying to stop Cardiello on defense all night. He took his knowledge of the offensive line and used it against the Red Elephants.
“I really focused on learning what all the positions are going to be doing on the offensive line so it really helps me read where they are going to go,” Cardiello said. “I can read a cut block better and a screen -- it really helps out playing both ways.”
When asked if it playing defense helped him learn how to disguise his intentions on offense, Cardiello scoffed.
“I am just going to come off the ball and hit you in the mouth,” Cardiello said. “There is no hiding to it. I will tell you what I am going to do straight up.”
The 6-foot-3 senior doesn’t talk too much on the field and does not appreciate those who do. He really hates complainers and Friday night, Gainesville quarterback and 2014 Clemson commit DeShaun Watson made the list.
“There was one play down here where DeShaun lost his helmet and I felt like it wasn’t really a facemask,” Cardiello said. “He was crying a little bit -- and he played a heck of a game -- but they need to call it both ways. It is football; that is going to happen. Hands in the face? You can’t really prevent that. You don’t have to yell at me the whole time if I put a hand in your face. It’s football.”
So how does the future Georgia Bulldog respond to perceived whining?
“I know I had a couple pressures on the quarterback,” Cardiello said. “I hit him once. I got my lick in. It felt good. I just wanted to get one on him and show him what’s up.”
Watson would have the last say, as his team won 19-15 on the road.
“They played it really well,” Cardiello said. “The center, he would just let us win and their athlete at quarterback, he would just read off of wherever we went. So it was kind of hard to defend it and still get that push off of the ball. I think we played it to the best of our ability. You win some and you lose some. I would rather lose early than late.”
Cardiello expects Buford to rebound and return to its dominating ways despite its new AAA classification.
“We have some kids that are banged up and we will get them back,” Cardiello said. “Our region schedule helps us out a lot, allowing us to develop some kids. I think we can pull it out this year. Some of the other teams in 3A lost players too and they are not where they want to be either. The coaches really like our team and we like the coaches and we all get along. It is going to be fun.”