Wake Forest has had to pull off several close calls to reach Saturdays state championship game, as the Cougars last three playoff games have come in the form of a seven-point win, a three-point win in four overtimes and a one-point win.
The team has a knack for adjusting on the fly, holding playoff opponents to a combined total of 16 second-half points, after allowing a combined total of 45 points in the first half.
Throughout the first half, (our coaches) are charting plays that hurt us and things that we can do defensively to help us, and at halftime we talk about that and see if we can incorporate it within the defense and the offense and we have done a good job of making adjustments, Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. Its been huge. Especially when we do play teams that have the ability score a lot of points, you have to be able to make adjustments during the game in order to be successful.
Wake Forest will face a high-scoring opponent in Mallard Creek, which enters the championship game averaging 54 points per game in the playoffs and having exceeded 50 points nine times this season.
Mallard Creek (15-0) coach Michael Palmieri said his team is not taking anything for granted as an undefeated No. 2 seed facing No. 12 Wake Forest (12-3).
At this time of the year everybodys good, especially in the state championship, he said. Theyre a dangerous team, and weve got to prepare and we will. Our kids know were going to have to play four quarters against them. ... Theyre going to want to hold onto the football and keep our offense off the field, so if we can make some stops and get our offense and get ahead and force them to push the issue a little bit, I think that will be a good remedy for us to get a win.
Lucas will again look to the Cougars defense to play a large role, as it has for Wake Forest throughout the year and playoff run.
The Cougars have averaged 31.6 points per game this year while allowing 17.2.
If they score 50 points, we probably wont win, he said. If anybody scores 50 points on us, we probably wont win, so obviously we dont want a high-scoring game. We want to give our team a chance to win, and thats keeping the score low.