Wake Forest appeared shaken when star running back Bryce Love left the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA third-round football playoff game Friday night against Millbrook, but the Cougars regrouped and rallied for a 28-21 win that sets up a Wake County matchup with Garner next week for the Eastern Regional championship.
This was the second year in a row that the Cap Eight 4A rivals met in the third round of the playoffs. Although this game didn’t go four overtimes like last year, once again Millbrook, behind a proud defense and clutch running from talented senior Marcus Marshall, gave coach Reggie Lucas’ troops all they wanted.
Love, who opened the scoring by turning a screen pass from quarterback Mack Moore into a 50-yard touchdown, was hurt with just more than four minutes left in the first half. He left the field with a dislocated shoulder but said he expects to play against the Trojans next week.
The Cougars got the winning points on a 62-yard drive when Moore threw his third touchdown pass, a third-down, 8-yard pass over the middle to Devon Lawrence with 1 minute, 4 seconds left that broke a 21-21 tie.
Moore played a big part in the win, completing nine of 16 passes for 215 yards and also threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Brook Cunningham that tied the score at 14 in the third quarter.
“We all knew we had to do a little more with Bryce out,” Moore said. “The defense was playing well and the other backs picked it up, too. We played a lot of the playoffs last year with Bryce hurt, and I think we’re better this year, especially with him healthy.”
Marshall rushed for 163 yards with three touchdown runs of 7, 65 and 30 yards. His 65-yarder put the Wildcats ahead 14-7, the first time Wake Forest trailed at halftime this season. Marshall’s 30-yarder tied the score at 21 with just 4:22 to play.
“We’ve had great senior leadership the last two years and hopefully the underclassman have learned from them,” said Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore. “Wake Forest is a very good team and we are, too.”
Knowing he wouldn’t be back on the field, Love also spoke to the team just before the second half.
“It was emotional. He told them what they needed to do,” Lucas said. “But the whole team played well. Mack Moore and Brooks Cunningham really got a good connection going in the passing game, too.
“We’re not just playing Garner next week, but the goals we set at the beginning of the year are still out there,” Lucas said.