Wake Forest High has become no stranger to the state championship football game. The Cougars will take the field in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA final Saturday for the third time in five years.
The Cougars (15-0) entered the year knowing what it took to reach the championship game and have delivered each week, earning the team another shot at Charlotte Mallard Creek (14-1) in a rematch of the 2013 4AA final. Mallard Creek defeated Wake Forest 59-21 last year and Matthews Butler beat the Cougars 44-0 in the 2010 final.
Last year’s team finished the regular season 8-3 with each loss in close conference matchups. This year’s Wake Forest team is more experienced and has performed consistently throughout the season. The Cougars have outscored opponents by an average of nearly 28 points.
“The tough part is as we were winning the games and going undefeated, finishing the regular season you always go ‘Wow, now if you lose one, you’re done,’ ” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. “So the tough part would have been how would we have handled losing it and being done, but it was definitely tough.”
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While Wake Forest only had one regular-season game decided by fewer than 10 points this year – a 27-18 early-season win against East Wake – the Cougars have been tested during recent weeks, being pushed to the brink by Millbrook in a 28-21 third-round win and halting an explosive Garner team 27-13 Friday.
“We had tough playoff games this year,” Lucas said. “The second, third and fourth round were very tough games. It definitely wasn’t easy getting back here, but I’m proud to be back here.”
Bryce Love, who was hampered by a groin injury during last year’s championship game, leads the Cougars on offense. Despite injuring a shoulder during the third round, he came up with big plays last week.
“I’m definitely blessed and motivated,” Love said. “We’re just trying to bring something back to the community, and ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”