Wake Forest has spent the past month on the road, gritting its way to the regional final as a No.12 seed, picking off higher-seeded teams one by one to put the Cougars back in the 4AA East final for the first time since 2010.
The Cougars, carried largely by defense throughout the playoffs, have been tested all year, playing in a Cap Eight conference that produced six playoff teams. After dropping three conference games, Wake Forest (11-3, 4-3) has rolled through the playoffs, taking out SWAC runner-up Panther Creek convincingly in the first round and closing out a four-overtime win at Millbrook last week.
Wake Forests defense has chopped teams offensive output during the postseason run, allowing an average of 85.6 rushing yards and 170 total yards. The Cougars held a Panther Creek team previously averaging 31 points to 14, and Pinecrest averaged nearly 40 points over the season before the Cougars held it to 10. Millbrook found the end zone twice in regulation before the teams headed to extra time in the third round.
While coach Reggie Lucas looks to his defense to set the tone for the Cougars, Wake Forest can surely move the ball effectively. The Cougars have one of the top rushing offenses in the area, led by junior Bryce Love (136.5 yards per game), who is nearing 2,000 yards for the year.
Middle Creek stalled Garners Nyheim Hines last week, but Wake Forest can also look to Devante Reynolds (52.3 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, 23.6 and five receiving touchdowns) and Jamal Sweet (49.6 yards rushing) for ground production. Reynolds came up big for the Cougars last week with three touchdowns.