Middle Creek, Wake Forest have won on defense

tstevens@newsobserver.comDecember 2, 2013 


Wake Forest's Dexter Lawrence (71) stops Millbrook's Marcus Marshall (21) during the second quarter on Friday November 29, 2013 at in Raleigh, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • Defenses win titles

    Middle Creek and Wake Forest have won with their defenses throughout the season, but have been particularly effective in the playoffs. Shown are rushing and passing yards allowed in each game, plus total offensive yards allowed

    Middle Creek (12-2)
    Garner16-21 (L)100141241
    Fay. Smith56-143216219
    Wakefield24-34 (L)134445579
    Green Hope26-146222222
    Panther Creek, 23-21111145256
    Holly Springs35-14274139413
    Athens Drive56-2114202216
    South View28-20*26245307

    Offensive leaders

    RUSHING: J.Drake 141-619; E.Perry 79-421; S.Fine 95-389; PASSING: B.Grisel 225-422-3104, 31 TD, 17 INT; RECEIVING: J.Schuller 71-1092; K.Smith 40-563; C.Burston 30-548; D.McDonald 25-297; R.Eaton 19-228;

    Wake Forest (11-3)
    Panther Creek18-14137175312
    East Wake45-14118165283
    Wakefield26-32 (L)179227406
    Leesville Road19-21 (L)17232204
    Sanderson10-14 (L)166105271
    Panther Creek35-14*10584189

    Offensive leaders

    RUSHING: B.Love 176-1911; D.Reynolds 128-732; J.Sweet 152-694; S.Mitchell 39-296; PASSING: M.Moore 43-91-783 yards, 8 TD, 0 INT; RECEIVING: D.Reynolds 13-331; D.Clanton 13-183; B.Cunningham 6-127; S.Newhouse 7-117

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 week’s 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.

“We’re not going to change offenses this week. We’re going to do what we’ve 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 we’ve got to make the field goal,” Lucas said. “But honestly, you can’t 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.

“We’ve 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.”

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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