RALEIGH — Wakefield made a statement Friday, topping No. 1 Wake Forest 32-26 in a battle of two of the area’s top teams.
After two close contests against Sanderson and Enloe, No. 3 Wakefield (7-0, 3-0 Cap Eight) remained unbeaten with a big win in front of its homecoming crowd to take sole possession of first place in the conference.
“This win is huge for us,” said Wakefield quarterback Evan Brabrand. “It gives our players the kind of confidence that we know we can hang with the big boys. I think we needed that because we’ve stumbled the last few weeks, but it definitely puts the target on our backs.”
Both teams entered Friday night averaging more than 35 points per game, with Wakefield relying on its passing and Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1) pounding the ground.
Wakefield quarterback Evan Brabrand passed for 123 yards in the first half, finding Josh Lowery for a 10-yard touchdown and running in a 5-yard score of his own.
“We knew we couldn’t come out slow,” Brabrand said. “We’ve been coming out slow all year and we knew we had to jump on it and steal the momentum early.”
A 25-yard field goal by Charles Morris gave Wakefield the 17-14 lead at the half.
Wake Forest struggled to move the ball early, but stayed in the game with two big scores – a 74-yard run by Bryce Love and a 56-yard run by Devonte Reynolds in the first half.
“They schemed us well and they had success on defense,” said Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas. “I think we stuck with it and we made some key big plays, and we needed them because it could have gotten a little worse than what the score indicated in the second half.”
Wakefield recovered a Wake Forest fumble on its own four-yard line and drove it in for a touchdown, helped by a 79-yard carry by Nick Dennis, to take a 10-point lead entering the fourth.
The Cougars would make it interesting by scoring twice in the final period, first when Love ran in another 88-yard touchdown and again when Mack Moore capped a seven-play drive with a 1-yard score to give Wake Forest its first lead of the game midway through the fourth.
“I would like to think that we teach our guys not to give up and that showed a little bit and we had a shot at the end, and that’s what we wanted,” Lucas said.
Wakefield answered, capping an 80-yard drive with a 21-yard strike from Brabrand to Lowery with 2:24 remaining. The duo connected again on a two-point conversion to take a 32-26 lead.
Wake Forest strung together a drive to move the ball to the Wakefield 8, including converting on a fourth-and-11 try, but fell short of the tying score.
“This win right here kind of sets the tone for where we are as a team and where we’ve come,” said Wakefield coach Rod Sink. “We’ve answered some questions and we’re still continuing to answer some. … The big question mark coming (into the season) was how we were going to play at quarterback, and I think Evan’s week by week been answering that.”
Brabrand finished with 227 yards on 25 of 43 passes, and Lowery hauled in nine catches for 123 yards. Bryce Love led the Cougars with 243 yards on 18 carries.