The Jefferson boys tennis team is off to a hot 6-0 start this spring, thanks in no small part to the play at the top of the Dragons' singles lineup.
Freshman Zach Bost (playing at No. 1) and sophomore Blair Buffington (playing at No. 2) have won all their matches while dropping only a handful of games.
The Dragons won a trio of matches last week, with Bost and Buffington leading the way. On Monday, Jefferson defeated Franklin County 5-0 as Bost won his match 6-0, 6-2 and Buffington won 6-2, 6-0. On Tuesday in a 5-0 win over Winder-Barrow, Bost won 6-0, 6-1 while Buffington scored a 6-0, 6-0 victory. And on Thursday, both Bost and Buffington won 6-0, 6-0 as the Dragons beat Banks County 5-0.
"Our girls team has had some fast starts like this before, but it's been a while since the boys have done it," said Jefferson coach Jim Bryan, whose charges host East Jackson on Thursday in a Region 8-AA match. "(Bost and Buffington) are playing well and they know what to do on the court. They've definitely got all the strokes.
Both Bryan and Buffington said Bost's participation on the team has Jefferson playing much more competitive.
"Having Zach at No. 1 gives you a nice beginning," said Bryan, now in his seventh season as the school's tennis coach. "We've never had a No. 1 and a No. 2 like this - it's definitely something we can work with. With Zach at No. 2, we were able to move Blair to No. 2, and our No. 2 last year, Sky Porter, is No. 3 now, and it seems like a better fit for him."
"Zach's a really good player," added Buffington, who played No. 1 for Jefferson last year but missed the first two matches of this season due to a knee injury suffered last November. "He can really hit it hard, and he doesn't miss a lot. He's also a cool kid - he comes out and cheers for his teammates. He's a very strong addition, and he's the main reason we're doing so well."
The matchup that intrigues Bryan these days is the one that will eventually happen between his two top players as Buffington pursues Bost for the No. 1 position.
"Blair wants to challenge Zach," Bryan said. "It hasn't happened yet. But I can't wait to see them play each other. Both are aggressive and like to play on the baseline. They give us a really good one-two punch."
"I've been wanting to play him for a while," said Buffington, who in 2008 lost only three matches (once to North Oconee's Jared Fisher, once to Athens Academy's Travis Platek and once to Athens Academy's Scott Freeman). "I was out three months with my injury and had really just started to play again when the season began.
"Zach had been playing well while I was off and when I got back, he was better. I don't think it matters who plays No. 1 or No. 2 - we're both pretty good and we'll do pretty well. But I've been looking forward to settling who's going to be No. 1 and No. 2 for the rest of the year."
Bost said that he was keen to answer his friend and teammate's challenge, and added the pair has squared off in tournament play, which Bost had been involved in for seven years and Buffington five.
"A challenge should happen in the next week or so," he said. "We have played against each other before, but it was a while ago, before Blair got hurt. The last time we played, it was close, but I think I won. I look forward to playing him again."
Both players train outside of school - Bost with Ashley Hobson in Snellville and Debbie Beck in Watkinsville, and Buffington with Cole Donnelly at Athens Country Club - but they said they enjoyed the camaraderie of the high school game.
"This year has been fun because the boys and girls teams have both gotten off to a good start," said Bost. "Playing in tournaments has been good preparation for high school."
"High school tennis is a lot different from tournament tennis," said Buffington. "In a tournament, you're out there on your own. But at school, you're trying to win for your team, which makes it more important and puts a little added pressure on there because you want to win for the team. And it's fun to have your teammates and friends cheering you on."