Defense wins championships even in the midst of an offensive explosion.
Sixteen area teams averaged 35 points or more this season, but the last two 4AA teams standing in the East have exceptional defenses. Middle Creek and Wake Forest have each surrendered 235 points in 14 games, or 16.8 points per game.
Both defenses came through in pressurized situations in last weeks third-round victories.
Wake Forest survived four overtimes to take a 27-24 victory against Millbrook, and Middle Creek allowed Garner only one offensive touchdown in a 24-21 win.
Garner was averaging close to 50 points but managed 120 total yards, barely more than half of what running back Nyheim Hines was averaging.
Middle Creek was able to close the inside running game and still have enough defenders on the perimeter. The Mustangs usually had two or more defenders waiting outside on attempted sweeps.
We played a scheme that the players checked on the fly based upon the formation we were given, said Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano. It was on the players to communicate, align and execute all within a two-second window.
Wake Forest has held nine of 14 opponents to less than 150 yards rushing. The Cougars are allowing 85.6 rushing yards and 170 total yards in the playoffs.
Middle Creek also has held nine of 14 teams to less than 150 yards rushing. It is giving up 242 total yards per game in the playoffs, but its defense ruled against a Garner offense that averaged 335 rushing yards.
Were not going to change offenses this week. Were going to do what weve tried to do all season, execute our assignments and move the ball, said Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas.
Another key may be big plays.
Wake Forest kicker Zack Coates booted a 29-yard field goal to end the fourth overtime and the game.
We finish every practice with a scenario of two seconds left and weve got to make the field goal, Lucas said. But honestly, you cant prepare someone for a situation like that. He handled the situation and came through for us.
The key for the Cougars defense, Lucas said, is 11 players pursuing the ball.
Weve got to take the right pursuit angles and never give up on a play, he said. Middle Creek did an incredible job on defense last week. It is very impressive. The key for us, as always, is executing.