The degree of difficulty to defeat Wake Forest has increased with the play of three college-level defensive linemen to go with star senior running back Bryce Love.
Just ask Panther Creek coach Sean Crocker, whose Catamounts fell to Wake Forest 23-6 in the season opener for both schools Friday night on the Panther Creek field.
“I just told (Wake Forest Coach Reggie Lucas) it’s almost not fair having to play against those guys,” said Crocker, shaking his head. “They’re good; they’re very good.”
The three down linemen in the Cougars’ 3-4 scheme are all receiving college interest for a club that finished as last year’s NCHSAA Class 4A runner-up.
Dexter Lawrence, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound nose tackle, is ranked the top junior defensive tackle in the nation by recruiting services; sophomore left defensive end Xach Gill (6-5, 270) has his first scholarship offer from N.C. State with many more to follow; and right defensive end senior Antwain Terry (6-3, 264) has improved enough to draw feelers from recruiters.
At halftime, Panther Creek trailed only 16-0. The Catamounts were in a hole with minus-49 yards rushing and only 17 yards total offense in the first half.
They finished the night with minus-47 rushing and 80 yards total offense. Panther Creek quarterback Brenden Magner, running for his life, finished 16 of 36 for 128 yards with an interception.
Wake Forest’s linemen stuffed running plays, collapsed the pocket and were getting their hands up to deflect several incomplete passes.
Gill and linebacker Garrett Brannock were in on a safety just before halftime with a tackle on a sweep for a 6-yard loss.
“We’re the anchor (of the) defense with our size,” Lawrence said. “But we’re also real close. We hang out together.”
Wake Forest’s two first half touchdowns were runs of 75 yards and in the first quarter and 15 in the second period. Before Love broke off his long touchdown, Panther Creek was threatening to make the scoreless game interesting if it could find a way to break a big play.
The Catamounts had a chance to take the lead late in the first quarter, but quarterback Brenden Magner’s pass down the middle of the field at the 15-yard line was dropped and another toss on third on the right sideline near the 15 was caught out of bounds.
Love finished the night with 14 carries for 150 yards. Wake Forest finished with 268 yards rushing as eight backs carried the ball in the Wing-T offense.
Despite the dominant night, Lucas wasn’t happy with his team’s seven penalties for 50 yards in the first half and 10 for 70.
“You expect penalties early in the year, but not that many,” Lucas said. “That was a disappointment.”