Wake Forest Cougars' defense the key to advancing in playoffs

CorrespondentNovember 25, 2013 

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ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

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    The First Meeting

    Wake Forest 31, Millbrook 25

    Key stat: Wake Foreest passed for only eight yards.

    Momentum. Millbrook led 13-0 entering the second quarter, but Wake Forest led 21-13 at the half.

    Defense: Wake Forest had 207 total yards and Millbrook had 261.

    Noteworthy: Wake Forest’s three losses were by a total of 13 points.

When looking for highlights in Wake Forest‘s 17-10 second round 4AA playoff win over (Southern Pines) Pinecrest, Cougars coach Reggie Lucas will watch the defensive tape.

Pinecrest had one yard of offense at halftime and finished the game with 133 total yards. Wake had 144 yards at halftime, but lost 11 yards in the second half.

Other teams may win with their offense, but Lucas and linebacker Norman Cade know their defense has to shine for the Cougars to win.

“Our defense played very well against Pinecrest,” Lucas said. “And after looking at the film and stats, Pinecrest played just as well.”

Wake Forest opened the game with a 74-yard touchdown drive and in the third quarter Pinecrest drove 61 yards for a touchdown. Otherwise, defenses dominated.

Wake Forest took a 17-3 lead just before halftime when Pinecrest quarterback Christian Ledbetter threw a pass backwards, but missed his receiver. Cougars cornerback Kendall Massey scooped up the ball and ran 27 yards for what proved to be the winning score.

Lucas said the Cougars were close to making some big plays.

“So many times our offensive linemen were in the right position and just missed an assignment or made a mistake,” Lucas said. “We were just so close to breaking a play.”

Lucas believes teams with strong defenses advance in the playoffs.

“For the first seven or eight games we were averaging 40 points per game, but going down the stretch teams have a chance to study and prepare for what we do,” Lucas said. “And that’s why defensively we have to play solid every single Friday night.”

Wake Forest beat Millbrook 31-25 in their regular-season meeting. Millbrook led 13-0, but fell behind 31-19.

“I look for Millbrook to attack us with their defense, be aggressive against the run. We have to be that way too,” Lucas said. “In the end it will be who doesn’t make the mistakes. Like that lateral they missed on Friday, that was the biggest play in the game.”

Pinecrest was driving late in the game, but with the Patriots on the Wake Forest 24-yard line with a first down, Cade charged in from the left end untouched and sacked Ledbetter for an 8-yard loss.

“Norman’s play was huge for us,” Lucas said.

On the next snap, with under a minute to play, Cougars safety Nic Deluke picked off a Ledbetter pass to secure the win.

Lucas and Cade both said the Cougars defense has been that way, not one dominating player, but everyone stepping up to make plays.

“If our D-line plays good the whole defense plays well,” Cade said. “And Friday night, their running backs couldn’t get through our line.

“I think our whole defense has gotten better and we’ve played our best in the playoffs,” Cade said. “Millbrook has a lot of good athletes and we know again we’re going to have to play good.”

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