There were times when Wake Forest running backs Devon Lawrence and Marquis Dunn were as bottled up as they have been all season long, but the Cougars were rewarded for continuing to call their go-to plays.
A late 57-yard touchdown run by Lawrence, followed up on Wake Forest’s next possession with a 47-yard rushing score by Dunn, helped the N&O No. 2 Cougars seal a 26-13 win against previously unbeaten No. 5 Heritage.
The crosstown rivalry hasn’t seen a better game to date.
“We didn’t underestimate this team. We knew what they had, we watched them on film and studied them hard,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the Wake Forest coaches told him to slow down so he could get behind the offensive guards.
Heritage was down just 12-7 with less than five minutes to go when Lawrence broke off his run on the first play of a new drive (4 minutes, 3 seconds remaining). Heritage answered with a 5-yard touchdown from Gunnar Holmberg to Jalen Pittman with 1:12 to play to make it 19-13 but failed to get the onside kick.
Three plays later it was Dunn’s turn.
“Devon has gotten some accolades as one of the better backs in the state and in the nation, but Marquis is right there too,” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas said. “He’s under the radar.”
Heritage’s first drive of the second half ended a 19-quarter shutout streak by Wake Forest. The Huskies marched 88 yards in 13 plays, ending with a 32-yard pass from Holmberg to Zach Gemmell, who made a fingertip catch in the end zone to make it 9-7.
“Our motto is ‘No big plays.’ We gave up that big play and it kind of kept Heritage in the game,” Lucas said.
In the first half, the Cougars scored on Demarcus Jones’ 4-yard touchdown run and a 22-yard Christopher Vidal field goal.
The first half set the tone for the defensive battle; there were 15 runs or completed passes of zero or negative yards.
“There’s so much momentum in the game, we just didn’t get into a rhythm that we wanted to offensively,” Heritage coach Dewayne Washington said. “We got into it a little here and there, but nowhere near what you need to to beat a team like that.”