Wake Forest and Garner have been the most dominant area teams over the past 10 years. Which program is better is a topic of discussion.
They have combined to play in three N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA championship games and seven semifinals during those 10 years.
The teams rarely have played each other in recent years, though, creating a Northern Wake County vs. Southern Wake County debate on the merits of the programs.
“Garner can’t beat Wake Forest. Just look at the record,” goes the Northern half of the discussion.
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Wake Forest, then Wake Forest-Rolesville, pounded the Trojans in playoff games, 40-21 in 2010 and 42-8 in 2009. The losses were so physical that some Garner players said they inspired them to work harder during the offseason.
The poundings were a far cry from the teams’ most recent regular-season meetings – a 54-14 Garner win in 2000 and a 44-0 Garner win in 1999.
“Garner has been better for longer than any other team in the county,” goes the Southern retort.
Garner won a state title in 1987, the last NCHSAA big-school championship to come to the county. Almost without exception, the Trojans have been outstanding every season since, all 27 of them.
Earl Smith, Reggie Lucas’ coaching predecessor and the foundation builder at Wake Forest, mentioned the Garner program when he came out of retirement in 1983 to take the Cougars’ job.
He talked about a close-knit community in Wake Forest and a school already known for having outstanding athletes, albeit basketball athletes.
He said Wake Forest was a hidden gem that could have a program to rival Millbrook, where he had coached previously, and Garner. He was right.
Wake Forest is bidding to reach its third state championship within the past five years Friday when it will play at home against the Trojans. Garner will be trying to return to the state final for the second time in four years.
The two programs are outstanding.
“You’ve got two offenses that want to control the football and two defenses that try to produce turnovers,” said Lucas, who succeeded Smith in 2007. “Turnovers are momentum changes. In a game like this, momentum can be huge.
“They are two programs that have had success in the past. I think there are a lot of people excited about us playing each other.”
This is the game that many fans, and players, have wanted. Each team has overcome each hurdle to reach the showdown.
Both programs have been good and picking the better of the programs is a coin flip.
If you include this year in the overall records of the teams for the past 10 years, Garner has a 115-25 record and Wake Forest is 114-26.
That is about as close as you can get.