Wake Forest High’s Fearsome Threesome of defensive linemen demonstrated their ability to dominate during one three-and-out series last week at Panther Creek.
The No. 2-ranked Cougars’ trio of college prospects are Dexter Lawrence, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior nose tackle; Antwain Terry (6-3, 264), a senior defensive end; and Xach Gill (6-5, 270), a sophomore defensive end.
Their three-play rampage early in the fourth quarter:
• Panther Creek began the series with a first and 10 from its 20-yard line. The trio collapsed the pocket and Lawrence and Terry sacked quarterback Brenden Mengen for a 6-yard loss.
• On second-and-16, Gill got his hand up in in the passing lane and deflected the ball for an incompletion.
• On third-and-16, with Lawrence and Gill double-teamed, Terry chased Mengen to the 2-yard line before an offensive lineman grabbed Terry’s jersey to prevent a possible safety. Mengen escaped and completed a 7-yard pass, but a holding flag flew. With no first-down yardage, Wake Forest declined the penalty to force a punt.
“We wanted to dominate,” said Terry of a unit in its second season together. “Panther Creek is a good team, but we practice hard every week and we were prepared.”
Wake Forest won 23-6 and limited Panther Creek to minus-47 yards rushing and 80 yards total offense.
“They’re experienced from playing together,” Wake Forest head coach Reggie Lucas said, “With them in a 3-4, we can blitz the linebackers and get another defensive back on the field for spread offenses.”
Lawrence, a 5-star recruit, is the heavyweight in the middle. In the Rivals.com system, his 6.1 rating means he’s among the top 25 players overall in the nation for his class and is considered an NFL prospect. Among the Class of 2016 recruits he’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle, nation’s No. 4 player overall and North Carolina’s No. 1 player overall.
But with his partners, he can’t rest on that in practice.
“They push me,” Lawrence said. “Antwain pushes me in the weight room to get stronger, and they push me in sprints.”
Lawrence’s scholarship offers start with Alabama, continue through the SEC and include the Big Ten and ACC. The competition will be stiff for North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest to keep him home. Lawrence said his plan is to wait until his senior year to narrow his list of schools or his interest in staying home.
Terry is the sleeper without a ranking or offer, but N.C. State, East Carolina and Virginia are interested.
“Antwain reads the offense as well as anybody I’ve coached,” Lucas said. “At Panther Creek, he was reading the screens as well as the secondary.”
Gill doesn’t have a ranking yet as a Class of 2017 recruit, but N.C. State was the first school to make an offer. More will follow.
Lucas also credits the technique work of assistants Blake Brooks and Rodney Ray. With big men as teammates, the trio is learning they can’t survive on superior physical ability.
“It’s good to have guys my size in practice,” Gill said. “They’ve mentored me since I got here. They give me pointers and tell me what I’m doing wrong.”
But don’t try to convince anyone at Panther Creek that the Fearsome Threesome made mistakes.