Wake Forest High capped last season with a run to the NCHSAA 4AA championship game, but Cougars coach Reggie Lucas is focused ahead to the team’s current season opener Friday against Panther Creek.
“We want to look at it as a new year, but the kids know what kind of year we had last year and expectations are high,” Lucas said. “We’re going to put more focus on being better prepared. We had a couple of letdowns last year and we’re going to try to avoid that.”
The Cougars finished 12-5 (4-3 Cap Eight) after a 59-21 loss riddled with several early Wake Forest miscues in the state title game against Mallard Creek. Lucas said he is looking forward, but last year’s finals were a teachable moment.
“We’re putting emphasis on not making mistakes, and putting emphasis on not having those mistakes not just in those big games, but all games,” Lucas said.
Standout running back Bryce Love (181 carries for 1,914 yards and 24 touchdowns), who was hampered by an injury during much of the Cougars’ playoff run, is healthy again and poised to continue as an impact player for Wake Forest in his senior season.
“I’m anxious to see him back playing in games,” Lucas said. “Obviously in practice he’s back to his normal speed. I’m ready for game one seeing him against game competition ... With any of our seniors, especially returning players who were on the field, we expect them to step up and be leaders for us.”
Seniors quarterback Mack Moore (57 of 130 passes for 1,084 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Jamal Sweet (198 carries for 855 yards) are also back, though the Cougars’ top returning receiver, Brooks Cunningham, is expected to miss the first part of the season due to a lingering foot injury.
Lucas said he also expects special teams to make an impact, particularly kickers Zack Coats and Cole Westberry.
The Cougars will continue as a Wing-T team, but with a slight difference shifting to a pistol offense at times.
“Our offensive line has worked extremely hard, and usually I say that’s going to be a question mark for us,” Lucas said. “Surprisingly, (defense) is going to be the big question mark because we lost seven starters last year. We’re still a little big up front, but we have four new linebackers and four new guys in the secondary. I still feel like defensively we have to be really good to do well this year.”