RALEIGH — When No. 9-seed Millbrook knocked off top-seeded Wakefield last week to advance to the third round of the NCHSAA 4AA playoffs, Marcus Marshall carried the bulk of the Wildcats offense, rushing 40 times for 221 yards in the 23-16 win.
The upset helped set up a third-round rematch with Cap Eight foe and No.12-seed Wake Forest. Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore knows the Friday matchup will be a challenge.
Theyve got a big defensive line that controls the line of scrimmage, so its going to be a test, Inscore said. We didnt do so well the first time. We lost that game, but it was a close game, so we get anther chance at them and it gets to be at home this time.
In addition to home-field advantage, theres also a different look to the Wildcats offense since that last meeting.
Marshall had two carries for 9 yards in the 31-25 loss at Wake Forest in early October. At that point in the season, the junior had only nine carries the entire season.
Marshall now leads the team in rushing with 905 yards. The bulk of his yardage has come in the past seven games, during which he has averaged 21 carries and 119 yards rushing per game. His seven touchdowns are also a team high.
The change has opened things up for sophomore quarterback Reid Herring, helping the Wildcats (10-3, 6-2 Cap Eight) to a 6-1 record since the loss to Wake Forest, and the programs first N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA third-round appearance since 2007.
We were struggling a little bit early in the season getting our offense going, and it all starts with the run game, Inscore said.
We moved Marcus there because hes more of a downfield runner, and hes been able to really hit the holes hard. Hes got great vision. Hes a heck of a running back and thats opened up our offense for us. Its also gotten another player or two on the field that have now gotten chances to produce and theyre doing it.
Marshall, the younger brother of former Millbrook standout and University of Georgia running back Keith Marshall, started the year at slot receiver.
Marshall said he knew both positions, so the switch was not major one, and with the help of the offensive line, the Wildcats run game has excelled.
I count on my line a lot, so theyre doing a great job, Marshall said Friday after the Wildcats win at Wakefield. I think its given us an extra element. We know we can switch it up. We have multiple formations, so I think its helped us have more variety.
Millbrook has a balanced attack, averaging 159.3 yards passing and 145.6 yards rushing.
As Millbrook prepares to face Wake Forest for the second time, the Wildcats know their ground game has seen a significant change since the beginning of conference play.
(Marcus) has been phenomenal for us, and our offensive line of course opening up holes for him, Inscore said. This team is just so resilient. Im so proud of these guys.