It’s second-and-goal from the 4.
Wakefield is down 26-17 against the visiting Southern Durham with a scoring opportunity to open the fourth quarter. Matt McKay’s first pass falls incomplete.
The next play knocked the Wolverines back 2 yards last Friday night, pressing a game-time decision. And Wakefield coach Rod Sink knew exactly where to turn: to McKay.
“He made a couple of good checks in the second half,” Sink said of his junior quarterback. “No one knows it, but he made checks, so that was able to give us the opportunity to get the ball down there.”
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On fourth-and-goal from the 6, junior kicker Michael Tilley booted a 23-yard field goal – his second of the night – to put the Wolverines down a touchdown.
“That field goal was a check by him (McKay),” Sink continued. “He stood up, saw what was available and took it.”
Though he’s only a junior, McKay demonstrates leadership on the field.
I had the mindset of winning, taking control of the defense, taking control of the offense, keeping a fast pace and just doing what we do best.
Wakefield quarterback Matt McKay
The 6-foot-3 quarterback’s arm and vision helped lead the Wolverines to a 27-26 victory over Southern in Week 4, not to mention a stand by the defense in the final minutes.
Southern moved the ball to the Wakefield 16 with about 3 minutes showing before the Wolverines forced a turnover on downs.
“It was scary to say the (least),” said McKay, who added that he likes to keep the defense upbeat from the sideline. “But I knew they had it in them.”
McKay punched in a 4-yard touchdown to capture the final margin against Southern.
He accounted for 318 total yards in the victory. He completed 13 of 29 passes for 216 yards and rushed for an additional 102.
He mattered in the win because he ran when he needed to, he passed when he needed to and gave the Wolverines the best chance to win against a team that featured a UNC-bound running back in Jordon Brown (166 yards on 28 attempts).
But to Sink, that’s not even the peak of McKay’s potential.
“If we can get Matt more consistent, I think that’s going to be good for the offense,” Sink said. He said that’s been a struggle for the entire team so far this year. “We made a lot of mistakes early (against Southern) and were probably inconsistent, and that’s been our biggest thing all year is how consistent can we be.”
Though McKay led in passing yards against the Spartans, he had a sluggish start. He completed just one of five passes on Wakefield’s first possession. It was a scoreless first quarter, and when McKay found a groove, opportunities opened for the home team.
As the time expired in the first half, he located a reliable Marius Cooper for a 49-yard touchdown pass, taking a 17-12 lead into the locker room. The pair connected again for 42 yards, which ultimately led to the aforementioned Tilley field goal.
“Yeah, I have other receivers, but when it’s close in the game, (Cooper is) the main one I trust,” McKay said of the 5-11 senior wideout.
Cooper finished with a game-high 131 receiving yards on just five catches.
“He’s the kind of guy that Matt always goes to whenever things kind of get down,” Sink said. “They talked it over a little bit, got a strategy going and made some really good decisions.”
Wakefield was fresh off a bye and travels to Riverside this week.
The Wolverines played from behind for most of the Southern matchup, but McKay said he had a feeling they could pull through.
“I had the mentality of winning,” he said. “I knew my team wasn’t going to lose. I feel like we had it in us and my team competed and fought.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan